Study finds that working moms have lower rates of depression compared to stay-at-home moms, but moms that try to become supermom balancing both work and home tend to be more depressed. The research was presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Mothers who believe in the myth of supermom showed higher levels of depression symptoms than working moms who expected that they would have to sacrifice some aspects of their career or parenting to achieve a work-life balance.

"Women are sold a story that they can do it all, but most workplaces are still designed for employees without child-care responsibilities," said Katrina Leupp, a University of Washington sociology graduate student who led the study. In reality, juggling home and work lives requires some sacrifice, she said, such as cutting back on work hours and getting husbands to help more.

Researchers analyzed a survey response from 1,600 women across the U.S., all aged 40 years and married from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

As young adults, the women answered questions about work-life balance by ranking how much they agreed with statements regarding staying home, family responsibilities, working outside the home. Then, at age 40, researchers measured their levels of depression.

"Employment is ultimately beneficial for women's health, even when differences in marital satisfaction and working full or part time are ruled out," said Leupp. She added that there is some truth to the adage, "Stay-at-home moms have the hardest job in the world."

But women (supermoms) who expected that work-life balance can be combined and didn’t' make tradeoffs may feel more pressure when they struggle to achieve their ideal goal. Guilt over not being able to manage both work and home balance increases depression symptoms.

"Employment is still ultimately good for women's health," Leupp said. "But for better mental health, working moms should accept that they can't do it all."