I recently went to the Farmer’s Market on Sanibel Island, Florida. Beautiful fruits and vegetables all around but this coconut flan was calling to me. It was being sold by a working Mom with her cute little pre-toddler in a plastic container next to her. He was perfectly happy with his toys until I tried to interact with him and stranger danger caused him climb out of the box into the safe arms of his mother. I salute all working Mothers for their creative solutions to work life balance.

I have always been interested in the happiness and stress levels of parents who work outside the home verses stay at home parents. Now, thanks to Covid, there is a growing third category of parents actively engaged in their profession, but staying home.

It seems counterintuitive to me, but some research shows that parents who do not work outside the home have slightly (emphasis on slightly) higher stress scores than mothers who work outside the home. I wondered whether the reduced opportunity for adult interaction and concerns about professional advancement factored in to this slightly higher stress level. Of course this higher level is just a number, and would not apply to everyone. Some parents who have really stressful jobs would undoubtedly reduce their stress by not having to deal with unkind supervisors, sales quotas, and rushing to daycare before closing.

It’s exciting to think that more opportunities for working from home may be growing. One of my patients told me that even though she has a child care provider in her home while she works, her children seem calmer. She feels calmer knowing for sure that they are well cared for.

My heart goes out to my patients who usually cannot work from home, like teachers and nurses. It seems to me that flexibility and control over one’s schedule is a great stress reducer.
So as you navigate your stay at home or non-stay at home schedule, look for the road signs that say flexibility and control over schedule.