Surprising Facts and Research About Stay-at-Home Moms

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Ask people what they think about stay-at-home moms (SAHM) and you'll get a variety of answers. They're lazy. They're making the best decision of their lives. They're not contributing to society. They're making a great sacrifice to stay home and nurture their kids day in and day out.

There's no shortage of opinions about women who stay home to raise their kids. But what does research say? The top seven findings research has discovered about stay-at-home moms may surprise you.

pros and cons of being a stay at home parent

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Pros and Cons of Staying at Home

The pros and cons of being a stay-at-home mom are supported by data gathered in research studies. These facts may help you to decide whether staying at home or returning to the workplace is best for you.

But keep in mind that each of these benefits and drawbacks may not apply to you. There are many different factors—such as budget, social support, spousal involvement, and your kids' needs—to take into account before making your final decision.

  • Increase in child's school performance

  • Child has less stress and aggression

  • Social approval of stay-at-home choice

  • Mothers often desire to go back to work

  • Mothers have higher levels of sadness and anger

  • Social isolation for mother, spending time mostly with kids

Evidence-Based Pros

There are many reasons that mothers choose to stay at home with their children. In fact, studies have shown that many Americans think this is the best option.

According to Pew Research Center's Social and Demographic Trends, 60% of Americans say a child is better off with at least one parent at home. Another 35% said kids are just as well off with both parents working outside the home.

Consider some of these research-supported benefits as you make your decision to stay at home or work outside the home.

Kids Benefit at Every Age

A 2014 study found that the benefits of having a parent at home extend beyond the early years of a child's life. In the study, the educational performance of 68,000 children was measured. They found an increase in school performance all the way to high school-aged children. The biggest educational impact in their research was found on kids ages 6 and 7.

Most homeschoolers also have an at-home parent instructing them. A compilation of studies provided by the National Home Education Research Institute shows a number of statistics that support the importance of a parent at home for educational reasons.

Some research has found homeschoolers generally score 15 to 30 percentile points above public school students on standardized tests and they're achieving above-average scores on the ACT and SAT tests.

Whether you're an at-home parent homeschooling your child or you're simply there when they get off the bus after school, more studies are finding a parent at home is giving children an academic edge over their peers without a parent at home.

Regardless of whether you stay home or work outside the home, research shows that parent involvement in schools makes a difference in a child's academic performance and how long she actually stays in school.

Decreased Stress and Aggression in Kids

Some studies link kids in child care with behavioral problems. This is good news for stay-at-home moms knee-deep in diapers and temper tantrums. Two studies suggest that you being home with your children during those early stages is better for your kids than them being in childcare full-time.

Studies from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Institute of Child Development of the University of Minnesota found that children who spend a large amount of their day in daycare experienced higher stress levels and aggression as opposed to those who stayed home.

Follow-up research seven years after the original study confirmed those findings still held true.

That doesn't mean you have to keep your children locked in your house until they're ready to go to school. There are many childcare options SAHMs can use to get a break without committing to daycare or other full-time care. Look for a Mom's Day Out or babysitting co-op to let your kids play with others while giving you some much-needed time alone.

Social Support for SAHMs Is Increasing

More women are becoming stay-at-home moms. We're not living in a "Leave It to Beaver" world anymore, where 49% of women in 1967 were stay-at-home moms with a working partner. But the numbers from a 2014 Pew Research study do show that the number of women who are becoming stay-at-home moms has risen.

While 71% of moms do work outside of the home, 29% are staying home. That number is up 6% from 1999.

Evidence-Based Cons

Regardless of the increasing numbers, quitting your job to become a stay-at-home mom shouldn't be out of guilt or peer pressure. While there are many great reasons to be a stay-at-home mom, being an at-home parent isn't for everyone.

Many Women Want to Work

If you've ever toyed with the idea of going back to work, you're not alone. The Center for Talent Innovation, a research firm, found that as many as 90% of moms think about going back to work someday.

If you're thinking about going back to work too, you can take some steps now to prepare. You can cover your employment gap, take classes that can help you get ahead in the working world, earn licenses or certificates that can enhance your resume, or even look into a part-time job.

Then there are those moms who want to earn money but can't imagine re-joining the rat race for a typical 9–5 job. There are plenty of at-home business opportunities moms can start as well as work-at-home opportunities that let women stay home and make money too.

Increased Sadness

Studies suggest that stay-at-home moms report more depression, sadness, and anger. A 2012 Gallup poll surveyed 60,000 women including women with no children, working moms, and stay-at-home moms who were or were not looking for work.

The Gallup poll revealed more stay-at-home moms reported experiencing sadness or anger in their day than moms who worked outside of the home.

It's important to note that while the numbers for stay-at-home moms do support Gallup's results, the difference in most of the percentages isn't a huge gap.

For example, the number of stay-at-home moms who feel they're struggling is 42%, compared to 36% of working moms. And the number of stay-at-home moms who smiled or laughed a lot the previous day was 81%, compared to 86% of working moms.

That said, a majority of SAHMs, 50% to be exact, reported stress in their previous day and 26% reported sadness.

Every stay-at-home mom must establish a support network, including regular outings with your mom friends to get a much-needed break and prevent mommy burnout.

Social Isolation Is Real

A 2015 study found that moms are spending too much time with their kids. The Mommy Wars pressures make stay-at-home moms feel like they're not a worthy member of society while making working moms feel like they're not spending enough time with their children.

While the 2015 study suggested that moms are spending too much time with their kids with no scientifically proven difference in their outcomes, a Highland Spring survey of 2,000 families revealed parents are only spending 34 uninterrupted minutes a day with their children because of the stresses of daily life.

That's why it's important for moms to find the right balance in their marriage and daily lives. There's nothing wrong with making the most of your family time, including creating gadget-free zones and making sure your kids can't accuse you of being distracted.

But you also need to take care of your own emotional well-being and let your children spend some time away from you. Whether it's a date night with your spouse or scheduling one night off so you can have some alone time, you're not going to damage your child because you didn't spend 24/7/365 with them.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you work or stay home, stop feeling like you're failing as a parent. Societal pressures make moms feel like they can't win whether they're carrying a diaper bag or a briefcase all day.

When it comes down to it, research is just research. Ultimately, what's best for you and your family is what matters most. It's true not everyone has the luxury of choosing between staying home or working but research can't tell you exactly what's going on in your family. Make a decision that's right for you and don't worry about what strangers, your neighbor, or your mother-in-law thinks.

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4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Jeynes H. A meta-analysis: The effects of parental involvement on minority children’s academic achievementEducation and Urban Society. 2003;35(2):202-218. 

  3. Gunnar MR, Kryzer E, Van ryzin MJ, Phillips DA. The rise in cortisol in family day care: Associations with aspects of care quality, child behavior, and child sex. Child Dev. 2010;81(3):851-69. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01438.x

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