Stay-at-home parents play an important role in their families. They perform the majority of tasks related to childcare and maintaining a household, in order to allow their spouse or significant other to maintain full-time employment. With the increasing childcare costs, some families may find that having one parent stay at home is even more economical than adding a second income.
While staying at home may be a financial necessity, the reality is that it’s an around-the-clock job, which comes with challenges. Some people have even speculated that stay-at-home parents have higher stress levels, as well as higher rates of psychological problems when compared to working parents. Is this the case? Learn the answer below as it relates to depression risk among stay-at-home parents and how therapy can help these parents in certain situations.
Depression and Staying at Home: What the Research Says
It’s not often talked about, but depression among stay-at-home parents is worthy of attention. A previous Gallup Poll found that unemployed women with children at home were more likely than employed women with children to report that they experienced sadness and anger “a lot of the day.” Compared to mothers working outside the home, stay-at-home mothers were also more likely to have ever been diagnosed with depression, according to the results of the poll. While employed moms and stay-at-home moms were about equally likely to experience stress, the rate of depression among stay-at-home moms landed at 28%, compared to 17% for mothers working outside of the home.
When we think of a stay-at-home parent, we probably imagine a mother, but fathers can also fulfill the role of a stay-at-home parent, and they are not immune to depression. In fact, a recent study found that fathers who stayed at home with their children were also prone to depression.
Contributing Factors to Depression in Stay-at-Home Parents
So, what contributes to depression risk in mothers and fathers who decide to stay at home to parent children? Researchers have taken an interest in this topic, and recent studies have revealed some key contributing factors.
Research on fathers who stay home have suggested that the following factors are associated with depression:
- Relationship problems
- Feelings of isolation
- Lack of independence
Women who stay at home with children rather than seeking employment outside the household report some similar struggles, as well as unique challenges that differ from what men have reported in research:
- Lack of identity outside of being a mother
- Stress and frustration over being responsible for the majority of the housework
- Sacrificing their own interests and growth for the sake of their children, while their husbands do not make the same sacrifices
- Having no time for their own needs
- Difficulty with their relationship with their spouse
Guilt and Shame Surrounding Depression
Both men and women who stay at home with children can face challenges that increase their risk of depression. For women, staying at home and experiencing depression may come with an additional layer of “mom guilt.” For many mothers, feeling guilty and ashamed for falling short as a mother is simply a part of life. Mothers are often pressured to be the “perfect parent,” finding a way to balance caring for their children, arranging playdates, maintaining a perfect household, and perhaps holding down a part-time job. Stay-at-home moms who experience depression may feel guilty that they aren’t overjoyed with every aspect of getting to stay home with their children.
While mom guilt is probably more common, men who stay at home with children may also experience guilt. After all, men are expected to provide for their families. While this may have traditionally involved providing financially, men who stay at home with children are indeed providing for their families by caring for their children. When they suffer from depression, men who stay at home to raise children may feel guilty about failing to fulfill their duties as providers.
Overcoming Depression as a Stay-at-Home Parent
If you’re a stay-at-home parent and you’re living with symptoms of depression, it is important to take time to care for yourself. Struggling with feelings of sadness doesn’t make you an unfit parent; even the best parents may experience distress and feelings of isolation because raising children is no easy task. If staying at home is a must for you, it’s critical to take time for self-care and set aside at least small chunks of time for your interests. You shouldn’t feel guilty about making time for exercise or a hobby while your children spend time with their other parent, head to a playdate, or stay overnight at grandma’s house.
If you’ve been staying at home because you feel it’s your obligation as a parent, there is no shame in returning to the workforce if this is an option for your family. You might find that you establish a stronger sense of identity as a working parent, and your children will benefit if you are happier.
Ultimately, you may need to seek treatment for depression if symptoms are severe or do not subside with self-care strategies. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatment strategies and rule out medical causes of depression. Your doctor may prescribe medications or refer you to a therapist who can help you to overcome feelings of sadness. In most cases, health insurance plans can cover the costs associated with individual therapy, but there are also great options available for those who choose to self-pay for treatment.
For those seeking treatment for depression, Bridge to Balance offers services in New Jersey, with office locations in Voorhees, Hamilton, and Piscataway. We offer both in-person and teletherapy services to meet a range of needs. Our teletherapy services can be an excellent option for busy parents. Visit our webpage today to learn more.