Over at Hot Air, they’re trying to explain it by income: if you stay at home, you’re poorer than you otherwise would be, so of course you’d be more stressed.
But that can’t be the whole answer, so they’re asking the question: what else is it?
I think it’s rather obvious. You’re more depressed because you’re with children all the time, you don’t get a break, the work is never done, and you get little adult interaction. Kids squabble. They puke. If you try to keep the house clean, it’s a never ending job. You could start to vacuum only to turn around and find a 3-year-old is trailing behind you munching through a box of crackers. And nobody is standing behind you saying, “Wow, that is a clean pot. You really washed that pot like a pro! I’m so impressed with that pot.”
At work we get stimulation. We get other people telling us we did a good job. We get a sense that our task is finished and we can move on to the next task. Anyone who has ever said, “today, I’m going to get through all the laundry in the house” knows that this is an impossibility. The laundry is never all done.
And when you stay at home, you don’t get to sit down and take a break. Kids even want to come into the bathroom with you! You’re tired. You’re overworked. And no one tells you what a great job you’re doing. So of course we’re going to register higher stress!
But here’s the thing:
We should not decide what to do based on whether or not it will give us the least amount of stress. We should decide what to do based on our values, not our feelings.
Just because staying at home is stressful does not mean it’s not worthwhile. It also does not mean there aren’t incredible benefits. Yes, it’s more stressful, but it also gives us those wonderful moments when someone cuddles up and says, “I love you, Mommy.” It gives us those amazing moments of outings to the library, where we all giggled and read books. It gives us wonderful times of bonding with each other. It gives us pillow fights.
And at the end of it, you get to look back and say, “I made a difference.” You can see it in your kids.
Does this mean every woman should stay at home? I wouldn’t say that, although I do have serious reservations about day care centres. But what I do believe is that the fact that it is stressful should not mean that we choose to not do it.
That seems to be the conclusion of the study, and those commenting on it are treating the study like it’s radioactive. “Shoot! We conservatives have been saying it’s wonderful to stay at home, and now it turns out it’s more stressful!”
Yes, but you’re measuring apples and oranges. It may be more stressful, but it’s still wonderful. It’s just simply hard work.
But when has being hard come to mean that we don’t do it? Just because something is harder doesn’t mean we should steer clear.
We seem to have this idea in our society that people should do the easiest thing, the most fun thing, the least stressful thing. That’s not the biblical way of looking at it. The Bible tells us to do the right thing. It tells us to seek God’s will. It tells us to be concerned, first and foremost, with people’s souls, not with money, or with prestige, or with standing in this world. It tells us to look to permanent things, not to temporary ones.
I’m pretty sure that the route that was chosen by many of those early Christians was far more stressful than the lives they had before. They left their homes and became missionaries, and quite frequently martyrs. They went to strange lands that didn’t welcome them. But they did it because God called them.
So I don’t take this study to mean, “Oh, my goodness, if it’s more stressful, maybe women shouldn’t do it!” I take this study to mean, “Of course it’s more stressful. But that just means we have to make sure we surround ourselves with support systems, and go to God to make sure that this is what He’s calling us to, so we don’t second guess ourselves. But lives are not about leisure; they’re about meaning and purpose. So decide what has the most meaning and purpose for you.”
And I really am okay with that.
What about you? Do you find staying home more stressful? Or was it easier to stay at home than to work outside the home? Let me know in the comments!