Stay-at-Home Moms More Depressed, Angry and Sad, Study Says

Do SAHMs feel emotionally worse off than working moms? Contributing factors can include under-appreciation and isolation.

Stay-at-Home Moms Depressed

Stay-at-home moms might struggle more than working moms, according to a new Gallup analysis of more than 60,000 U.S. women between the ages of 18 and 64 (before retirement age) interviewed in 2012.

The study found that 28 percent of stay-at-home moms reported depression a lot of the day when asked how they were feeling the day before, but only 17 percent of employed moms did. Of the group, 26 percent of SAHMs said they experienced depression, vs. just 16 percent of working moms. And 41 percent of the at-homers reported worry, compared to only 34 percent of their counterparts.

What women say

“Stay-at-home moms” are defined as women who are not currently employed and have a child younger than 18 living at home with them. “Employed moms” are defined as having a part- or full-time job and having a child younger than 18.

The study also examined employed women (without any kids under 18 at home) in comparison with the SAHMs and working moms. In this “no-kids-at-home” group, 17 percent reported feeling depression, 16 percent sadness and only 31 percent worry. Those stats are much closer to – some the same as – the ones reported by the employed moms.

Why are SAHMs sad?

But why do stay-at-home moms experience more negative emotions?

Many adults aren’t prepared for the immense amount of change in their lives that a child can bring. Reproductive health psychologist Sara Rosenquist says that when someone has a baby in our culture, or even adopts one, they can lose status, income, friends and the life they knew and were used to.

“They also gain the wonderful thing they had sought after oftentimes,” says Rosenquist, “but the loss is every bit as real.”

One reason stay-at-home moms might feel more down than working moms is a lack of appreciation – or a missing sense of accomplishment. At the end of the day, working moms can list a set of tasks they conquered, explains licensed counselor Erika Myers. But it can be difficult for a SAHM to pinpoint what she did during the day, even if she’s been busy the entire time.

“Moms do a lot of work but don’t get paid for it,” therapist and psychology professor Diane Lang said. “They work 365 days a year with no sick time, vacation time or time paid off.”

The isolation factor

Another aspect of being a stay-at-home mom that might contribute to anger and depression is isolation.

Working moms get to be “real” people with interests, skills and relationships outside of the home, Myers says. A stay-at-home mom must work hard to maintain relationships that aren’t about being a mom, because that’s what her life is focused on. Many SAHMs find they are friends with people they have nothing in common with – except their homemaker status.

Some days, a stay-at-home mom may not interact with any adults at all.

“Kids are great, (but) having conversations with children only over the course of the day can be isolating,” says Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist and mother of two. “Social isolation can often lead to feeling sad and resentful.”

Combating the bad feelings

To help feel more accomplished at the end of the day, a SAHM can make a list of the tasks completed. Myers also recommends talking with a partner about the challenges of staying at home – and how the partner can help meet the stay-at-home mom’s needs for appreciation, understanding and connection.

Another crucial step? Take some time for yourself. Personal development and continued learning greatly boosts happiness. Lang says that many moms take classes at local libraries or adult education centers on cooking, scrapbooking, languages, etc. This helps with both social and intellectual stimulation that women might lack from staying at home.

Or consider joining a moms’ group, club or other social activity. If you’re concerned over the cost of childcare, there’s also the option of joining a church group or gym that has a nursery.

“Doing a childcare swap with another stay-at-home mom to allow some personal time each week, and filling that time with things that are personally satisfying – not just errands – can help the stay-at-home mom feed some of her own needs,” Myers says.

Bottom line

The results of this study don’t mean that women can’t enjoy being stay-at-home moms. Some moms find it very fulfilling to stay home and raise their kids. Heather St. Aubin-Stoutauthor, an author born in Detroit, left her career 25 years ago to do just that.

“I struggled with this, as I had been raised to be a career woman,” she says. “In hindsight, I’m glad I stayed home, because I won’t get those years back.”

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Comments
  • I was a stay at home mom… My nephew once said to me… Aunt Ginny, you don’t do anything! He said, you are not smart! I still to this day remember that statement…. I CHOSE to stay home with my children… I was a licensed Realtor…. I am by no means “not smart”!!!!!! I truly believe we need more moms willing to sacrifice a second income for the welfare of our children!

    Reply
  • I am a stay at home mom and have been for the last five years. My advice to other SAHM is to have something of your own. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is something for you. I realized I was kind of getting fried and I needed to do something that had nothing to do with kids. The first thing I did was start a blog. It has tens of followers but that isn’t the point, it was something for me. It gave me a sense of community and it fought off feelings of isolation. I also started my own small business that I run out of my home. I make a little bit of money and it really is fun for me. I am ridiculously busy between home school, running my business, taking care of the littles, taking care of the household, and taking care of the blog. I would have it no other way! http://www.sprinklesofpeace.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • Stacey W.

      Thanks for your comment and for the wonderful advice for SAHMs!

      Reply
  • Being a SAHM is depressing, I always was independent owned my own house at 23 paid off my car had a great job w benefits, going to college to be a nurse. Btw I did this all single then my husband met me at church,chased my for a year we had our daughter. I have never felt so heartbroken alone, poor, angry, isolated, worthless, unapricated, not by my daughter but my husband. I lost my co workers, friends and family connecting a being a SAHM. My husband doesn’t want to connect w me or do anything and he’s always too tired

    Reply
  • As my name says,duh. I call my self the worthless disgruntled Sahm since I no longer look for work. I tell my kids to not grow up like their parents, leave this country and find a better place that respects you as a humans. They are gifted young kids who understand my unhappiness with this forced careerless path. I apologize to them every day for my inability to provide for them a house, extracurricular activities, and other items to increase thier chances of improving lives. Being a Sahm is a worthless role model for any young person.

    Reply
  • A sahm is no role model for our children.i don’t choose to stay home,I have to because my child has not yet been accepted to a daycare and we have no sitter. But I can not wait for that day to come. Being a sahm is very depressing, lonely and isolated. The worst part is, husband sees me as a worthless person and sees being home with kids as no job! I can’t wait to get my own job and not rely on anyone!

    Reply
  • I Have noticed this recently with my wife… i understand her depression.. i try and make an effort to make sure she feels appreciated. i try and help out around the house alot. and make a point to get her out even if im tired… i dont know what else i can do.

    Reply
    • i know what you mean. i work, come home, try to help her in any way. i try to take her out but our funds are low and our kids have behavior issues. im stuck between a rock and a hard place.

      Reply
    • Hi,
      If you’re doing all that you can to understand, appriecate, and romance her then maybe should could get her substitute teaching license and that way she could work when she wanted to without any pressure..?. Also make a date night once a month if at all possible. Or she could go to school online to get a degree at home. That could really help out when the kids get in school and daycare isn’t as much of an issue. Plus as the kids get older a family might need two incomes. I’m going to school online and trying to find a job that pays enough to make up for daycare and gas.

      Reply
  • Combating isolation right now, I see my husband from 6-8pm when we throws his cloths all over the house eats dinner and passes out on the sofa…..yes he works very hard hes gone most the day we can’t afford to have 2 incomes so he works very long hours, and not that I have to justify why I stay home but our children are very young and reports of abuse at day care centers leave us both horrified and I choose to make sure my children are very subjected to that type of disfunction. Any how we only have one car he takes to work an hour away ever day at 3am or I would just drive him to work, my family doesn’t call or stop by I’m literally alone 22hours a day and when my husband is here he seems irritated that I crave his interaction (not attention, don’t ask him for anything simple just speak words to me) I have thought about killing myself at times I only cook clean and changes diapers, take dogs out and my husband only talks to me when me needs something done/sex is once a month. He says just hang in there and he loves me but my children are anti-social since they never see people they cry incosolible when we are in public and I literal have zero joy in my life my kids don’t even let me hug then its screaming manipulating feed me and shitting their pants. I am a single mother with a paycheck no car and my husband does all the grocery shopping I can’t pick what I need or want to eat and usually we don’t get enough for me to eat along with the children I tend to forgot my meals so not to take food from my children’s mouths.

    Reply
    • I hate that you are feeling that way! My feeling go out for you. I am currently a stay at home mom but I am looking for a job that will be worth me working. It was not easy for me either be a stam but I feel you should still get romance and interaction with your husband. I also think you should do the grocery shopping, it helps to get you out the house for a little bit and women shop better than men do! I hope you can find happiness and look at the positive more but your husband may just need to understand better about how you’re feeling and maybe he can make you feel better overall! Good Luck!:)

      Reply
    • I just broke down in tears because I can feel your pain. At this very moment, my son is screaming and whining. It drives me totally insane! But at least he’s a child. My boyfriend is the one that really makes me depressed. And I feel so weak that I let another person control my emotional state. I used to be so lively and enthusiastic about life. I had so much potential. And I know I still do, and that I really am that outgoing gal. But in the depths of depression and the pressures of trying to do it all, I get completely overwhelmed and somehow convince myself that I am a loser. My boyfriend of 13 years is constantly saying that I don’t do anything, which makes me furious because I am constantly doing soothing. I clean up after him and my son continuously while also trying to pursue my real estate career, which I have no time for because I am busy with my son all day.

      Reply
  • My mother is a stay at home mom, but she is not depressed. On the contrary she has no ambitions in life (she has stated this explicitly) and despite my being in college now and my dad getting burnt out at work, she shuns all our suggestions of finding a job. She has no hobbies (except for going on the Internet to browse other people’s stories and live through them). I do need to thank her for doing the cooking and supporting our family in other ways. Overall though, it drives me crazy how she is a living double standard – she raised me to have many interests and be able to support myself, yet she does not want those things herself. I will have to agree that being a SAHM is a terrible terrible role model for your kid. While it is acceptable to do so when kids are young, you should definitely do something with your life once they are older. Otherwise, cooking and cleaning and doing other supportive housework becomes your entire life and something as simple as a comment on the taste of a meal will ruin your entire day.

    Reply
  • I’ve been a stay at home mom for about 3 years now, since my son was born, and I’ve never been more lonely, depressed, anxious and miserable in my life. Since I’ve become a SAHM, my blood pressure is up, I have stomach and joint pain, fatigue, and daily headaches. I was recently diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression. I have never felt more isolated, under-appreciated, or worthless. My husband works 10-12 hours a day and when he gets home from work, he wants to “decompress” which means he wants me to feed him and then let him sit on the couch while he plays video games on his phone. When do I get to decompress? Never. After my son goes to bed for the night, I sit up for hours, full of anxiety and watching television. Sometimes, I can’t fall asleep until 3am, even though I’m exhausted. My days are full of chasing after a very cranky and hyper toddler who throws food, yells at me, and cries over just about everything. I have no friends, my family doesn’t seem to help with anything, and my husband is insensitive to my complaints. His point of view is that I have things easy; he’s the one who has to punch a clock, meet deadlines, and deal with incompetent people all day. All I have to do is change diapers, feed a baby, and apparently just a little bit of housework. He doesn’t seem to realize that I have to punch a clock too. I don’t get a lunch hour, I don’t get weekends off, I can’t take sick days, and I don’t have anyone else on my team to rely on when things get rough. The worst part of being a SAHM is that it’s 24/7, even when the husband is home.

    Reply
  • Dear everybody, here is my situation: I came into the USA 6 years ago, to marry mu husband who is from the same country as me, but he came 8 years before me, we met online and that is how it all started. I am SAHM, a mother of a great 3 year old boy, but all my family is over the seas. So, I get literally no help except from my husband when he gets from work and not as a rule, but only if I am at the end of my nerves.
    So far I have started to work in McDonalds( that was not easy won battle, specifically because I am not good at asking for something for myself). I get to dissapear for 3.5 hours 2-3 days a week, after which I am happy to see my hubby and my kid, and I am earning some pocket money, but I am still missing some deeper communication with adults other than exchanging a few sentences in between serving customers. I have been also working on my diet and exercise , to go back to normal weight, and with ups and downs, it is better but it demands a lot of focus, planing and time. Once you find what works for you, don’t ever give up. One more good thing about exercise is that while you are doing it, you don’t have time to think about anything else, so the brain relaxes and the endorphines hit after that and will keep you in a relaxed mood for a few hours (I do it in the morning while my son still sleeps)

    Now, it is all good, but I would not be here if there was not something else bothering me: it is not enough. On my worst days I want my old job back and my time back and my friends back, and sometimes even my country back.
    I can not see my personal future clearly – should I go back to work forse, or go back to school before that, should I find a job that will fit the future school hours of my boy? The future of my son is in the first place for me, but what will make me happy enough that I can be a good mother? I don’t want to be seen just as a mother and a wife. I need to be me again. Does that sounds selfish or egocentric?

    Reply
    • I feel how u feel u have lost ur self inside ur self it’s like the person u one new just dispersed like ur living for everyone but ur self giving everything u got to people that in return give u nothing to find ur self I’m tired of being a mom a wife a sister a daughter I just want to b me and worry about me I want to find my self

      Reply
  • I am a sauna of 2 a 5 year old and a2year old I have fallen in to depression lonelyness a have a fiance that works from 2:30 am till 4:00 pm and I feel most of my depression comes from being alone stuck between the same 4 walls day in and day out he comes home and it seems as if he ent no how to interact with me Like I dnt exist or that’s how he makes me feel some days some times I think Wat if I stray from home find someone or something that’s into me would that make me happy …probly not that’s y I dnt I dnt want to hurt my family but they hurt me every day because I stay home with my children wen I get mad I yell and so when there dad’s around they act like he’s the grates guy but I always have to b the bad guy in the situation I’m just tired and drained my life feels like a black hole I can’t seem to find my way out

    Reply
    • Find the strength, talent, and beauty within yourself, believe me it is there. I feel your sadness, isolation, and heartache. Find the spark within, share it with your children. Do things together, create together, grow together. You are everything to your children, for real. Get in touch with your inner child and bring that into your relationship with your children. Above all value yourself so your children may value themselves as well. One day they will be parents and everything you do now they will. Check out some online sources on patenting in peace like some steiner inspired stuff that will really get you creative with your little ones. Remember that you have everything within you to be a mother and strong wonan it’s there!

      Reply
  • Wake up and listen to yourselves! This madness needs to stop. It needs to stop with you or it will and maybe has hurt your children. Being a mother is one of the most powerful and sacred positions you will ever hold! 18 years ago I became a mother at a tender age and found myself sinking down the “sad spiral” however the love in my heart resonated with such power for this child I birthed I became a better, stronger, more beautiful person for her. For 9 years I was a single mother and yes I managed to find ways to work from home to be a nurturer, teacher, and strength for my child. Life was really bumpy at times but my child saw my strength that came from my love for her and through this strength she learned all about “coping with life”. When she was 9, I married and became a wife to a very hard working down to earth country man. I found myself living out in the middle of no where with not only my own daughter but also a very cranky stepdaughter. Once again the “sad spiral” started to spin but also once again I knew that stinking thinking is no good and I got my biscuit busy enjoying my daughters and transforming into a more versatile mother and HOMEMAKER. I also birthed 2 more children, 2 rowdy sons that could make a saint run down the road screaming like a madwoman but I didnt!!! I almost but once again the whole “stay at home mom” label wasn’t the thing, it’s about being a HOMEMAKER. Now look at the definition of stay at home mom versus HOMEMAKER. This homemaker word is an amazing one. It’s about taking pride in your home and using your hands to create. It’s a a SKILLED position and hoes great with being a MOTHER. This is what the amazing, beautiful strong mothers before us were. Life was hell for them but they kept on going, kept on mothering, kept on homemaking, and MAKING THE BEST with what they had and most important MOTHERING thief children. If you are gonna be at home who gives a hoots what anyone thinks about you. Be the best darn mother, lover, wife, woman around. A strong woman, fierce mother, proud honemaker is a force to not be reckoned with! Some mothers on this forum have complained of the men in their lives being distant, unappreciative etc.. sounds like these men had testicles wasted on them and they need the boot! After a if these mothers are this hootin miserable at home giving these misogynstic males the boot and then getting some good education and careers just might be the fix!!! There are lots doors open and I know that from what life dished out yo me 18 years ago. Oh and getting back on that, I have a strong, stable, free spirited nurturing daughter who’s all grown up now and proud that her mama breastfed and kept her close as a babe, homeschooled her, and all at the same time managed to work from home when she was small, from home and part time when she got bigger, back to home and being a full time homemaker when she was 9, and giving her the best of me she so can access the best in her! Beautiful mothers! Realize that you are amazing, strong, outrageous women. You have the courage to whine on this website and I know you beautiful mamas have the courage to be the best mothers/women/lovers/warriors ever! Get homemaking, career minded, creative, involved in something you love so you can grow in love with your sacred children and the powerful position that you are lifting in life. Love to you all!

    Reply
  • I am a SAHM for 5 long years (3kids). I’m not to sure how to even start this, and I don’t think im going to explain my frustrations b/c I’m sure we all have the same hard time being stay-at-home-mom (according to most posts, we do!) After reading everyone’s posts, I feel a little better that I’m not alone at this SAHM thing.

    Reply
  • Tears are streaming down my face as I read this and the comments. I’m a SAHM to a five year old and an almost 2 year old (who I’m desperately trying to wean because I haven’t had personal space in years and it’s starting to get to me!). I hate feeling worthless, depressed and resentful. I am busy working around the house or running errands from sun up to sundown and am exhausted every single waking moment of my life. My husband doesn’t appreciate anything I do and thinks I have it easy…. I’m usually still doing housework long after he gets home from work (he gets home around midnight) and he just asks why I didn’t start sooner in the day. His responsibility is literally only to go to work (which I greatly appreciate) but I do everything else. Every dish, every meal, every load of laundry, pay every bill, clean every room, take the kids to all their appointments and everything in between. We live in a bad district so we are starting homeschooling this fall and I’m already feeling very trapped. I love my son and am thankful to have this opportunity but it does not come without sacrifice. I think what most of us want is recognition and appreciation from our spouses. I am tired of being overlooked and taken for granted, it makes me want to just stop so everyone can see how quickly our lives go to crap without it my constant efforts. This sucks :/

    Reply
    • *hugs* to you Momma! I HEAR your every word completely. I’ve been a sahm for 7.5 years, and I’ve wanted to quit countless times. I just want you to know you’re not alone.

      Reply
  • i feel trapped,angry and depressed.nobody ever says thank you yet they expect everything to be done for them.most nights i cry myself to sleep.i dont know how much more i can take

    Reply
  • What gets me more angry, resentful, lonley and depressed is the fact that my husband thinks I don’t have it as hard as he does with his “job” I’ve tried to explain exactly how I feel and apparently it’s not as important because I don’t pay the bills

    Reply
  • Thank you for this article! After being a SAHM for the past 7 and a half years and three kiddos I thought I was literally going insane. Seriously. But nope! I’m just a SAHM. I can’t tell you how relieved I feel knowing I’m not alone! So excited to start MAKING time for myself. Thank you!

    Reply
  • “I wish they had a better mother.”
    That line hits me like a ton of bricks. There’s never enough time. Nothing looks done. A constant sound of screaming or crying resonates throughout the house. An infant, a toddler, and a boy with autism:
    That’s my life. And those three truths terrify me, exhaust me, and little by little kill me inside.
    Being a stay at home mom is like existing in purgatory, except it’s worse because you are neither dead nor good enough for heaven.
    I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep and even when I try one of them will wake me up for a feeding, a nightmare, or simply to feel me. The life in my body slowly drains. I look in the mirror and I’m thus shadowy mess of a human being that I once was.
    I think of ways to kill myself. Some ways are more creative than others. I like the idea of simply disappearing, just walking into a forest or a deep cave. No one finds me. No bones. No trace. No evidence of my existence. That’s what I feel. I hate this. My husband says that I will miss this time. How can I possibly explain to him that I won’t, EVER. I wasn’t made for being a mom. This is my purgatory. My death. My life. And I hate it.

    Reply
  • I am sure that depression can be a factor for some Stay at Home Moms. As a SAHM I know it is a LOT of work, self sacrifice & can feel as if it is not important because of the culture we live in. But, it is SO important, especially if children are involved. Staying at home to take care of our husbands, households & od course, raising our children is a gift from God. A couple of years ago I read the book “Motherhood” by Nancy Campbell. This book gave me such peace & purpose with my role as a SAHM. I recommend it to Mommas :) Also, having a little outlet is important too. I just started blogging & it has been exciting to have something that is MINE :) It’s been fun to share all my tips & ideas for the things I love around the home.
    Lively Little Home

    Reply

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