Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Two Things Freud Says You Need To Be Happy ( or The Dilemma of The Stay-At-Home Mom)


"Love and work are 

the cornerstones to our 


-Sigmund Freud

     According to Sigmund Freud and many other well known philosophers and social scientists one's ability to love and work is deeply connected to one's degree of happiness and satisfaction with life. As Freud said, "Love and work..work and love..what else is there really?"  But, what does this concept imply for the stay at home mom who made a conscious decision to not work in order to be home to care for her family-even when she had the choice to do otherwise? Would the philosophers feel that these moms are doomed to a life of chronic depression and feelings of emptiness because they are not working outside the home? 

     (Just to be clear, in this context, love means commitments to family, partners, and/or children. Work encompasses all our productive activities whether for pay or not).  

     Betty Friedan author of  "The Feminine Mystique", the ground breaking book that actually started the women's movement, coined the term feminine mystique to refer to the unfulfilled feeling felt by educated housewives of  the 50s and 60s. Friedan believed that such women had lost their identity and sense of self to a life centered around husband, children, and home maintenance, and little else. The feminine mystique was a trap that had caught American women who were afraid to address the problem for fear of being perceived as "unfeminine". 


            We can all agree that participating and being part of meaningful and productive endeavors outside the home contributes positively to our self -esteem and provides us with a sense of purpose. At the same time and when circumstances allow this option, we can all see the value in being a stay-at-home mom. So the question remains what can women who have the privilege of deciding to stay at home do to avoid falling into the trap of the feminine mystic and yet remain happy. Below are some ideas: 

1. Consider exploring opportunities beyond the home such as working part-time, volunteering for a charity, and pursuing intellectual pursuits.


2. Keep track of the amount of time you spend related to the "feminine mystique". If you find yourself consumed with reading the most current fashion magazines with the attempt to meet the current media standards of femininity, evaluate the amount of time you spend participating in these types of activities.  Examine if these activities take time away from your important relationships and time away from developing other interests different from that of  the "feminine mystique".

3. Self-examination.  Evaluate your mood and self-esteem by asking yourself questions such as, "Do I feel fulfilled?", "Do I feel empty?", and "Am I achieving my full potential?"

4. Consider psycho-therapy for general support and guidance.


Next Post: Part II: The Dilemma of The Working Mom. 


Do you think people that have both "love and work" are happier? Do you think The Feminine Mystic still exists today for woman? I would like to hear from you.

This post was written by Dr. Paula Durlofsky. A psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, P.A.
to learn more about me and my practice please visit my web page at Paula Durlofsky, Ph.D.




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