Monday, August 29, 2011

Depression and the Working Mom

I can't possibly be the only working mom who sometimes contemplates life as a stay at home mom (SAHM).

I've had periods where I got to briefly experience life as a SAHM, such as during maternity leave or the month between residency and fellowship. I love it in theory. It's nice to be there for your kids all the time, make nice hot dinners on the stove, and keep the house tidy.

And as we all know, juggling full time work and kids can be a huge challenge. I get jealous of women who don't have to resort to bribery to get out the door before their first patient each morning, and get to spend the whole day enjoying their kids. I feel sad sometimes, thinking about how I'm missing out or that my life is too stressful. My kids are only going to be so cute and little once and I'm missing it.

However, my father (obviously reading my mind), recently forwarded me an article about how SAHMs have a higher rate of depression than working moms. (He's always forwarding me helpful and relevant mental health related articles. After I got married, he forwarded me an article about how women who got married and divorced had a lower rate of depression than women who never married. Thanks for the confidence, Dad.)

And actually, reading this article made me feel better. It was a reminder that even when I don't love every aspect of my job, I like feeling productive, interacting with people, and of course, bringing home a paycheck. It makes me appreciate my kids more when I'm with them, and it makes me feel less like taking a bat to the TV whenever I see Spongebob on the screen. And it fills me with pride when my daughter says she wants to be "a doctor like Mommy."


  1. That article gave me some solace, too, and I really agree with some of its points. I think staying at home would be so challenging and I'd feel like I was depriving my son of some of the great learning and social opportunties that he gets at daycare. For me, working has been the best of both worlds. Being a parent is a challenge no matter what, but I know that staying at home would not be satisfying for me.

  2. I guess all working moms feel a lot of guilt and it's just good to know that the grass isn't necessarily greener.

  3. i have tried all sides over the last 20 years as a mum: full time parenting (oh how depressed i got!) as well as full time work, and more recently full time study - will be a new doc in december (woohooo!)
    I definitely couldn't cut it as a full time mum, and I admire any woman who can. SO FREAKING HARD!!!!

  4. I have seen women who were SAHM wither under the duress of not "having a life" outside of the kids. Friends formerly outgoing, adventurous, and happy turned into blithering, depressed women who could not see the sunshine on a gorgeous summer day... they had no objective in life and hence, they felt, no purpose.

    Once they found their purpose outside of the house, it was interesting to see how they regained themselves, and their cheer.

  5. I am not a mom, however I have had friends, and known moms, that simply lose their identity when they stay at home, and then have a hard time adjusting to work life once their kids start to grow up or go to school. Plus, I feel like the quality, not the quantity, of time that you spend with your children is what truly matters.

  6. I am a doctor. I was a working doctor and now am a stay at home mom to my four children. I am much less depressed now. Yes it is hard being at home sometimes but for me it was harder not being with me kids as they were growing and not being able to attend all their activities. I have loved watching my fourth child grow. I know it is not for everyone.
    If you are happy in your work that is great but quite frankly I was miserable. Everytime I think of going back to work I feel sick to my stomach.
    I think this is an individual choice. Do what makes you the happiest!

  7. Interesting article. I don't find any of it surprising. Being in the "working mom who expects work-life balance to be hard but nonetheless has been known to have a supermom complex in the past" category (e.g. no formula, I will pump until the cows come home...), I have to say that working part-time and choosing a job with flexibility and a pro-family environment has made all the difference in the world. Most days, I'm very happy with the choices I've made. I would really miss medicine and regret all of the investment of time/money I put into training to be a doctor if I quit working to parent full-time, and similarly I would have a hard time routinely missing a large percentage of important events in my kids' lives if I worked full-time. There are family-friendly employers out there and the more physicians speak up in favor of family-friendly policies, the more employers of physicians will be forced to reevaluate how they do business. This is a recurrent theme on this blog and a constant topic of discussion amongst my fellow mothers in medicine. The majority of physicians are parents, and if anything, there is a physician shortage in many specialties that is only projected to grow as our population ages. We have tremendous bargaining power. It's a shame we don't seem as a group to know how to use it or be motivated to use it!

  8. I am on my third job, and do not feel doctors have barganing power. I was flat out rejected by multiple potential employers when I stated my "objectives" - work 4 days/week, or 5 short days. It was a time I could not find any such job at all in my then county. Plus you have to think about your husband being able to work in his field in the same area where you can have such a compromise job. No, I would say women doctors do not have choices. It rare still to find "family friendly employer" as they all view you as their revenue/expense formula. The only women I saw pulling it off were ones married to doctors who could take their time finding part-time, and both of them I knew and interviewed said it up front at the interview they "did not have to work" (whatever that means). Yet in Europe at international conference I saw women doctors who worked 4 hours a day 8 am to noon (ideal schedule for mom with school age kids). They did not seem insecure about their job security. I wish there were 4 hour day options here in this country. I wonder how many people would have left their homes and SAHM status to happily come to clinic and fill in that physician shortage. Unfortunately physician shortage in this oucntry is addressed via blaming physicians themselves for "greed". I (seriously) read in multiple media that Ahem, don't you know why we lack primary care docs in this country - of course! all medical students are greedy and just would not agree to have such low income. Solution? We have to hire more community service oriented altruistic medical students.

    That was it, ladies.

  9. I can understand what the previous commenter is saying, but from a patient's point-of-view instead of the employer's. When our first child was born and I was looking for a pediatrician, a female physician came highly recommended for her bedside manner. As nice as she was, I didn't go with her because she herself had just had a baby and had reduced her hours which increased the likelihood we were going to be seeing her partners. I understand why a woman would want to spend as much time as possible with her children, but I'm personally not interest in a part-time doctor. I'm sure there are some positions where part-time work is doable for doctors, but I'm not sure that it's reasonable that many women to think that they're going to become and doctor and work part-time.

  10. Not to mention the PTSD-like syndrome that accompanies the depression and guilt over NOT working after training to be a doc. Don't even think about it (sahm).


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