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Working Parents Feel 11 Years Older Than Parents Who Stay at Home

By John Cave Osborne |

This dad is adding years to his life.

Do you ever get the feeling that there are too many studies out there? I do. And on any other day, the results from a recent one conducted by PruHealth would have solidified my opinion. The United Kingdom-based insurer has found that working parents feel older than parents who stay at home.

I mean, that’s a no-brainer, right? Surely it’s harder to parent when you have less time to do it. And things that are harder are more stressful than things that are easier. And stress robs us of our energy and vitality which makes us feel older. So in that regard, the results shouldn’t be all that surprising, right?

Wrong. Because as any stay-at-home parent will tell you, keeping the kids all day is anything but easy.

And I was reminded of that fact yesterday when my wife took my daughters to see the Nutcracker. She claims they went for fun, but I think Caroline had to be there. You know, being the understudy to the title role and all. (Kidding honey!) So I was left in charge of my two 3 year-old boys. And just like each and every time I’m alone with some or all of my kids, yesterday was hard.

Putting lights on the tree while refereeing countless fights over the wooden train track? Not easy. Doing the dishes while making sure the boys weren’t coloring on the dog again? No walk in the park. Making those little tyrants eat all their lunchtime fruit before letting them have a cracker? A frustrating endeavor, friend. The girls were only gone for 5 hours, but you’d have thought it was 5 days from my stress level. After all, it’s no fun plucking matchbox cars from the toilet. Twice.

Honestly? If I took care of my kids full time? I’d probably suffer a certifiable nervous breakdown before Valentine’s Day. But PruHealth claims otherwise. According to The Telegraph, PruHealth has discovered that the average working 46 year-old has the energy and fitness level of a 53 year-old. But a 46 year-old stay-at-home parent feels four years younger — an 11-year spread. Here are some the findings that underline the main takeaway.

  • Only 43% of working parents eat a balanced diet versus 53% of non-working parents.
  • 18% of working parents never exercise, while  just 12% of non-working parents fail to break a sweat.
  • 30% of working parents smoke, 3 percentage points higher than the 27% of non-working parents who smoke.
  • Working parents drink more (though no numbers were given in the article to indicate by what percentage) and sleep less. 28% get fewer than six hours of sleep per night compared to 25% of non-working parents.

So, again, add all those numbers up and the survey of 2,000 parents gives you one final number. Eleven. The number of years younger that stay-at-home parents feel compared to the parents who bring home the bacon.

If true, I think it’s a good thing. After all, raising a child is more important than any other job in the world. Those who do it full time deserve such a perk. Don’t you think?

Photo: MorgueFile


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About John Cave Osborne


John Cave Osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as Babble, TLC, YahooShine, and the Huffington Post. John went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months after marrying a single mom, then quickly conceived triplets. Since then, they have added one more to the mix, a little boy they named Grand Finale. Read bio and latest posts → Read John's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Working Parents Feel 11 Years Older Than Parents Who Stay at Home

  1. Otter says:

    At first glance I would have to call up the UK and say RUBBISH! My wife’s job of watching our son is exponentially more stressful than my desk job. Upon further review she definitely gets more excercise than me so maybe there is something to this.

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @Otter — Man, first off, HUGE win by our Razorbacks over the weekend Congrats. Like you, I can see both sides. Hoping it’s true, though. I want there to be such a benefit for the most important job on earth!

  2. Nicky's mom says:

    Being a SAHM is certainly not easy, but I know I’m much happier and less anxious than I would be if I had to leave my baby to work outside the home. I definitely get stressed at times, but I’d argue (at least for me) it’s a better, more rewarding kind of stress than working outside the home and worrying about time I wasn’t spending with my kids. Of course, others wouldn’t choose to stay home with kids all day because it’s too stressful…to each his/her own.

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @Nicky’s mom — I can completely see why you’d say such stress isn’t as bad as the “guilt” stress you’d get if you were outside of the house. (I put guilt in quotes b/c I don’t want to put words in your mouth). Still, it’s an incredibly hard job. And that was my main point. That and how great I think it is that it provides such a wonderful benefit!

      Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  3. laura says:

    I completely agree. At first I was like, staying home full time would take years off my life! But I guess all the running around would pay off (although, I’m surprised they drink less! I also imagined staying home full time would drive me to drink). And SAHM/Ds deserve whatever breaks they can catch. I think a good take home message would be to incorporate the positive aspects of staying home while you work (exercise, healthy eating, go to bed sooner). It also makes me think more seriously about cutting back my hours to part time. I just think I’m one of those people who would never shower if I stayed home. Even during maternity leave and holidays I joke that someone is going to call CPS because I look like a homeless person stole a baby.

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @laura — Your shower thing? Don’t worry. You’re not alone! My wife and I are lucky to get one in a weekend. And I don’t even wanna know what her percentage is during the week! I think you make excellent points. And that’s my whole thing. On the surface, the study made sense to me. Until I considered just how hard it is to stay at home full time. Still, I’m so glad that the stressful job rewards its employee with this wonderful benefit. And I think your take home message is spot on.

      Thank you for reading.

  4. e says:

    I’ve done both, and I have to agree with the study. It’s not that being a SAHM wasn’t stressful or challenging- it definitely was at times. But, as a working parent I have SO much less time to do the same amount of stuff I was doing as a SAHM. So, instead of having all day every day to spend quality time with the kiddo, make a balanced dinner, do the shopping, errands, laundry, cleaning, etc, I have just a few hours every night. It’s SO much more stressful.

    I can also definitely see the balanced meal thing. As a SAHM I made a healthy, wholesome breakfast and lunch for the kid- so I ate that, too. But as a working mom I grab whatever breakfast I can on the way out the door, and often eat lunch at my desk (quickly) so I can leave earlier to get more time with my son.

    Being a SAH parent is no walk in the park, but for me, it was much less stressful.

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @e — That’s awesome, e. The balanced meal thing does make a lot of sense. We’re sticklers on giving our kids a ton of fruits and vegetables, and whenever I’m taking care of them, I also snack much more healthy. And, I tell you what, I’m not at home full time, and I do experience a ton of stress coming home at 6 and entering that whirlwind. It’s sometimes hard for me to unplug, but I want to do so quickly b/c there’s such little time before they’re in bed.

      Sounds like the moral of the story here is that folks believe that the study is accurate. And I think that’s awesome. I was hoping it was something I could believe. Thanks for reading.

  5. Manjari says:

    I would think it would depend on the answers to a lot of questions – How many kids do you have? What do you do for a living? How financially well off is your family? How close do you live to your parents or other relatives that can help with the kids? What sorts of tasks come easily to you, and which ones are challenging?
    If the study includes some of the stay at home mothers I’ve met who are well off, have only one child, have part time babysitters, spend 2 hours a day at the gym, get their nails done once a week, have a cleaning service, etc., that would definitely influence the result. I’m sure a stay at home parent with 6 kids and no family nearby trying to make ends meet would be more stressed. Working in a nice office, for a great boss, with flexible hours and co-workers who are like friends is obviously very different than working long hours for low pay or working a physically demanding job.

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @Manjari — Those are awesome points. (You’re good like that, aren’t you?) Caroline and I are lucky. We’re good to go on a number of the fronts you rattled off, but seeing what she contends with day in and day out, I still think it’s an awfully stressful job. I can sense it every day when I come home.

      So I bet the results would vary quite a bit given each person’s circumstances. That said, I like the notion of stay-at-home parents feeling younger and being healthier.

  6. Manjari says:

    I like that notion too, John, being a SAHM myself! I would NEVER call this easy, but I’m not that excited about going back to work either.

  7. Amber says:

    I’m interested to know how having a stay-at-home partner impacts your energy and fitness level–i.e., does having one parent stay at home positively impact BOTH parents, or only the one that stays at home?

  8. Old bag says:

    Having just returned to work after 10 months’ maternity holiday, I can confirm that being a WOHM is a kajillion times harder than SAHMing. As a SAHM, you don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, you can declare pyjama days, DVD days, decide to make choc chip cookies on a whim, go to the park, have plenty of time to cook dinner, duck out to the supermarket easily, not do peak hour public transport, have quality time with the children that doesn’t limit itself to the dinner-bath-bed nexus. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much easier. You don’t stop being a mother when you’re at work. You just end up with two jobs.

  9. Sarah at home says:

    If this is true, then I cannot imagine what working outside the home must be like! I feel like I’ve aged 11 years this one year and I want to drink all the time. Being a SAHM isn’t what I expected it to be. So much so, that having a job actually sounds better than going on vacation. My mind is mush! (I do have time to workout, though, thanks to the childcare at the YMCA.)

  10. jlc says:

    Being a SAHM is hard and would like the “kidbreak” a job gives, but I agree I probably eat better and exercise more than my working counterparts.

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