Trying to be a supermum can be a recipe for depression, scientists said.
Working mothers who try to do everything by themselves are more likely to become depressed than those who accept that they aren’t superhuman, a study of hundreds of women found.
'Women are sold a story that they can do it all, but most workplaces are still designed for employees without child-care responsibilities,’ said researcher Katrina Leupp.
'You can happily combine child rearing and a career, if you are willing to let some things slide.’
She suggests that rather than trying to do everything themselves, working women should get family members to help with the housework – and not feel guilty about leaving work early when family duty calls.
High earners can take their cue from actress Anna Friel, who revealed her secret to juggling work and being a mother – employing two nannies.
The University of Washington researcher said: ‘Employment is ultimately beneficial for women’s health, even when differences in marital satisfaction and working full- or part-time are ruled out.’
But the analysis found that not all working mothers are equally happy.
The women with ‘supermum’ attitudes as young adults showed more signs of depression, the American Sociological Society’s annual conference stated.
Women who try to do it all without any help are more likely to feel they are failures when things do not go to plan, with guilt and frustration triggering a spiral towards depression. Tiredness and lack of any ‘me time’ could also be an issue.
However, she stressed that working women – including supermums – generally still a lower risk of depression than stay-at-home mothers, adding: ‘But for better mental health, working mums should accept that they can’t do it all.’
Pam Spurr, a life coach and mother-of-two, said women need to realise there is no shame in taking a career break when children are young or cutting back on time in the office.
She said: ‘We need to accept that we are only human and can’t do it all.’