What Research Says about Stay-at-Home Moms

A picture of a stay-at-home mom with her kids
Research has a lot to say about stay-at-home moms. Photo © Oliver Rossi / Getty Images

Ask people what they think about stay-at-home moms 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 about stay-at-home moms?

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 husband. The numbers from a recent Pew Research study do show that the number of women who are becoming stay-at-home moms is on the rise, though.

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

But the numbers shouldn't matter. 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.

At-Home Parents Benefit Older Kids, Not Just Younger Ones

A recent 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 6-7.

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.

For example, 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 ACT and SAT tests.

Whether you're an at-home parent homeschooling your child or you're simply there when she gets 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, the National Education Association's research has proven that parent involvement in schools makes a difference in a child's academic performance and how long she actually stays in school.

Studies Link Kids in Child Care with Behavioral Problems

Good news for stay-at-home moms knee-deep in diapers and temper tantrums. Two studies state you being home with your children during those early stages is better for your kids than them being in child care full-time. The 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 child care options SAHMs can use to get a break without committing to a daycare. Look for a Mom's Day Out or babysitting coop to let your kids play with others while giving you some much-needed time alone.

A Majority of Stay-at-Home Moms Consider Going Back to Work

If you've ever toyed with the idea of going back to work, you're not alone. Research firm Reach Advisors conducted a study that found 57% of moms think about going back to work some day.

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 any woman get ahead in the working world, earn one of these licenses or certificates that can enhance your resume or accept one of the best part-time jobs for stay-at-home moms.

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 jobs that let women stay home and make money too.   

Stay-at-Home Moms Report More Depression, Sadness and Anger

A recent Gallup poll revealed more stay-at-home moms report experiencing sadness or anger in their day than moms who work outside of the home. Of the 60,000 women surveyed, the poll included women with no children, working moms and stay-at-home moms who are or who are not looking for work "to distinguish between those who may not be employed because of circumstance rather than by choice."

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. 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.

Moms Spend Too Much Time with Their Kids

A recent 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 study above says moms are spending too much time with their kids with no scientifically proven difference in their outcomes, a Highland Spring study of 10,000 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 her.

Americans Say a Parent at Home is Best

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

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 if they're carrying a diaper bag all day and they can't win if they're carrying a briefcase all day either.

When it comes down to it, research is research and only what's best for you and your family matters. 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 think.