$85,000 worth of stress felt by new mothers

Mother with her baby relaxing on bedResearch from the Melbourne Institute has put a dollar figure of $85,000 on the time pressure and stress experienced by mothers in the first year of a baby’s life.

The research is the first of its kind to propose a dollar value equivalent to increased time pressure and stress related to the birth of a child.

“The largest immediate effect of the birth of a baby is the time stress felt by new mothers,” said Dr Hielke Buddelmeyer, lead researcher of the paper.

“The $85,000 figure reflects the extra earnings the mother would have to receive to reduce her stress by as much as the birth increases her time stress.”

“The cost of a baby goes well beyond nappies and baby clothes,” said Dr Buddelmeyer. “This research set out to quantify some of the invisible costs – in this case the mother’s stress and loss of time.”

In addition, the research found that women are three times more time stressed than men in the first year of a baby’s life.

While both partners experience some financial stress immediately following the birth of a baby, the mother’s financial stress following the birth of a baby is larger than the father’s.

“In tracking the time stress of a mother at different stages of her child’s life we found that when the child is at primary school the perceived financial stress reduces, but then increases when the child is a teenager.”

When a child moves out of home this reduces the parents’ time stress, but by less than a new baby increases it.

“While the significant additional stress experienced by new mothers is a challenge, the positive effects of having a child must outweigh the negatives or else people wouldn’t continue to choose to have babies,” said Dr Buddelmeyer.

Read the full working paper here.

The report is based on findings collected through the extensive Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, managed by the Melbourne Institute.  The survey includes responses from over 20,000 Australians over a period of 12 years from 2001 to 2012.

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