Part-time work – the best of both worlds?

working mum

working mumWhile many working mothers dream of being stay-at-home mums, research has suggested the reality is not perhaps quite as idyllic as it seems.

Mums trying to juggle work and parenting may envy those who can be at home with their kids all day, supposedly baking and bonding, and doing all the things the working mum can't. But it turns out mums who don't work are actually more likely to be stressed, depressed and suffer ill-health, according to research by the University of North Carolina in the US.

The team concluded that part-time work is arguably the best - it enables mums to be independent and useful outside of the family home, but still allows them time to be involved with their children's school.

In fact, mums employed part-time were found to be just as involved in their youngsters' school as stay-at-home mums and, unsurprisingly, more involved than mums who worked full time.

Researchers found working part-time helps mums with their sense of conflict between work and parenting.

Lead author Cheryl Buehler, from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said: "In all cases with significant differences in maternal well-being, such as conflict between work and family or parenting, the comparison favoured part-time work over full-time or not working.

"However, in many cases the well-being of mums working part time was no different from mums working full time."

The researchers called on employers to make life easier for mums: "Since part-time work seems to contribute to the strength and well-being of families, it would be beneficial to employers if they provide fringe benefits, at least proportionally, to part-time employees as well as offer them career ladders through training and promotion," said Professor Marion Brian, co-author of the study.

The team analysed more than 10 years of data - they started the study in 1991, interviewing 1,364 mothers shortly after their child's birth and followed them over a decade.

The findings were published in the December issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Family Psychology.