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Is your home more stressful than work?

Work is stressful, but home is less stressful, right? That’s what many of us say, but not necessarily what actually happens.

According to a new study from Penn State University, both men and women have significantly less stress at work rather than at home, and this difference is even more pronounced for women than men. In addition, they found that the women in their study were happier at work than at home, whilst in contrast, men felt happier at home than at work.

Whaaaaat? How can that be?

Home is more stressful than work for both men and women

Let’s first look at the finding that home is more stressful than work for most men and women. It does make sense when you think about it. Most of us fulfil only one role at a time at work, which has structure, rules and a focus on completing tasks and delivering results.

Home is very different. It’s often a messy (literally and figuratively) and unpredictable place, where it’s difficult to get things finished. There are often competing demands on your time, sullen kids, challenges to parent’s authority, endless chores and possibly an unsupportive partner. These multiple demands make home more stressful than work for both men and women.

Women experience home as more stressful than men

What about women experiencing home as more stressful than men? Well, women often have to juggle multiple roles of parenting, housekeeping and being the emotional stabiliser for the family. Generally, they do more tasks at home and have less leisure time than men. So it makes sense that women experience home as more stressful than men.

Although gender roles have shifted to the extent that women now are able to go to work more easily, men’s roles have not similarly shifted to the same extent that they take up an equal burden of housework and childcare at home.

In addition, many women have a stress trigger of having to be perfect, do it all, do it now and never raise a sweat. Feeling a need to be a superhero will ratchet up the level of stress she experiences at home.

Week nights have become witching nights

For both men and women, the transition from work to home is when they are most emotionally vulnerable. The mental and emotional transition from the events of the day at work to the demands of the home is difficult enough, but is compounded by being tired and hungry. It’s women more than men however, who often end up multitasking to meet the immediate domestic demands of the family.

This is particularly true doing weeknights. In comparison, weekends are often less stressful because there is more time to do what needs to be done.

Strategies to be the loving partner and parent you would like to be

No one wants their home to be stressful, and so what can be done to be the loving partner and parent you would like to be? Here are three practical actions you can take:

1.   Discuss how your loved ones would like to reduce their stress in the family. I have found that even pre-teens, and particularly teenagers, have lots to contribute! For some suggestions, click here

2. Agree on each person’s stress management strategy.  Your strategy may be to spend some time on your own before engaging with the family, or alternatively immediately dealing with the demands of a very young family with the understanding that there will be “me time” later for you to de-stress. For more information, click here.

3.   Choose the right time for arguments and fights. Make it a golden rule in your home that there are no arguments or fights when people are tired, hungry, multitasking and transitioning (for example, school to home or work to home). In other words, the best time to deal with problems at home is almost always after supper or alternately the weekend, and certainly not when alcohol is in the mix. For more information about how to argue successfully, click here.


It seems crazy that home is more stressful than work. If that’s your experience, try these actions to create a home that will be the sanctuary you and your family will treasure.

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