By: Jean Johnson for Uterus1
“I personally believe that a stay-at-home mother can end up becoming a couch potato,” said 54-year-old Cindy Dietrich of Portland, Ore., who worked as a nurse while raising her two sons Paul and John.
|Slow Down: Release Stress|
Stress generally manifests in terms of feeling out of control and can be reduced in a number of ways say the mental health experts:
Know your limits and learn to say no.
Ask for help when you need it and learn to compromise.
Tackle one thing at a time
Take up a hobby
Play with the cat
Pounds to stones conversion: 10 pounds equals 0.71 stones
According to the National Mental Health Association in response to daily strains the body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to you muscles in order to react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation.
However, when an individual is constantly reacting to stressful situations without making adjustments to counter the effects, they will feel stress which can threaten your health and well-being.
Dietrich added that “I haven’t always been a working mother. I did home school when circumstances allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom. But then part of the lifestyle I instilled during my sons’ formative years was proper nutrition and exercise, so I modeled those behaviors.
“Since that time as a working mother, I have been able to maintain my weight since I walk a lot at work and take five flights of stairs to my floor instead of the elevator. I also have weights at home and the boys have a Bowflex that I use. Aside from the bugs that come through the hospital, I have been pretty healthy – and a lot of people when they learn my age, they say I have so much energy. I do have a lot of energy.”
Energy and health. They do seem to go hand in hand as lead researcher in a British study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, epidemiologist Anne McMunn, Ph.D. of the University College London, concluded.
“We have known for some time that women who combine employment with family life tend to be healthier,” McMunn told WebMD. “But we haven’t really understood if good health allows women to combine work and children or if combining work and family life leads to better health.”
In other words, until the study was published it’s been a chicken and egg conundrum. Is it because women are healthy earlier in their lives that they are able to take on the responsibilities of work and family? Or is it the reverse? Does assuming this type of dual role promote better health?
McMunn’s work concludes that it’s the latter. Something about working outside the home plus the stability of family life seems to keep women healthier into middle age – and leaner to boot. As far as stress goes, however, it’s another matter.
“We certainly are not saying that working moms aren’t stressed,” the British researcher said. “But it may be that being able to participate fully in society, both in and outside the home, is important for health.”
McMunn’s team used data from the Medical Research Council’s National Study of Health and Development, which was started in Britain in 1946. Beginning at age 26, women were tracked each decade until age 54 via questionnaires that collected information on general health, height and weight, work history, marital status and number of children.
Obesity rates, for example, were 15 percent higher in women who were homemakers (38 percent of women) while women who had partners, worked outside the home, and had children enjoyed a lower rate of 23 percent suffering from obesity. Women did not have to work all their lives according to the study, and those who had worked for at least several periods also tended to maintain lower weights.
The same applied to overall health. Women with partners, a job and kids were less likely to report poor health. That said, McMunn notes that “the research doesn’t address why working moms tend to be healthier.”
IrishHealth.com ran a story on the above study and invited comment. According to one woman who identified herself as Chana, emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects should not be underestimated and contribute to a woman’s overall well being.
“As well as [physical health] look at the mental health benefits,” Chana wrote. “Working mothers interact with more adults in the workplace, are far more likely to enjoy a wide range of topics for discussion, and I feel are far more in touch with what’s going on in the world, which is so important for bringing up our children and also in a personal relationship with our partner.”
Conversely, a stay-at-home mom who used the pseudonym Orbie wrote passionately about the trade-offs she’s had to make as a mother staying at home.
“Those are scary statistics for me. I have become a ‘housewife’ since my fourth child was born a year ago, although for the previous two years I was on maternity/parental leave. Besides the financial cost of having four children being cared for outside the home, it is something I wanted to do, as it is the way I was brought up,” wrote Orbie. “Much as I hate to admit it I have put on over a stone in weight since leaving work, although I convinced myself it was still from when I was pregnant. It’s the boredom at home that drives you to eat junk and doesn’t’ do any favours to the telephone bill. I spend my days wondering who I can ring next.”
Orbie continues to muse on the difficulties women can face in deciding how to orchestrate their lives as mothers who do not work outside the home.
“I miss adult company and find that when I go out, the seldom weekend night I get a sitter, that I am completely out of touch with what’s going on. I also hate the thoughts of getting ready to go out as I have nothing nice/trendy that fits me. But I’m 35 years of age and do actually love being at home full time,” she wrote. “It’s my new job until my baby starts school and maybe I will go back to work then.”
Orbie also talks about her weight, an issue that so many are troubled by. “With four children under five years it’s hard to find time for exercise plus there’s always some kind of nice treats in the press, hence the statistics!”