"Supermoms" more likely to be depressed than realistic moms

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(CBS) Moms, you can't do it all.

A provocative new study suggests working moms who try to be "supermoms" are more likely to be depressed than their counterparts who embrace the idea that they can't do it all.

"You can happily combine child rearing and a career, if you're willing to let some things slide," study author Katrina Leupp, a University of Washington sociology graduate student, said in a written statement.

For the study - presented at a sociology conference in Las Vegas on Saturday - researchers surveyed 1,600 married, 40-year-old women, who were a mix of stay-at-home and working mothers. The women were asked to rank a series of statements about balancing work and home life, such as "A woman who fulfills her family responsibilities doesn't have time for a job outside the home," or "A woman is happiest if she can stay at home with her children."

What did the researchers find? Stay-at-home moms were more depressed than working moms, which agrees with previous studies' findings. So working to some degree is "ultimately good for women's health," according to Leupp.

But what about those working moms with a "supermom" attitude who think they can effectively balance raising children and climbing the corporate ladder? They were more likely to become depressed than realistic moms who know they can't do it all. Leupp said these moms are more comfortable making tradeoffs, such as leaving work early to pick up kids.

"Supermoms have higher expectations for fairness, so it makes sense that they would be more frustrated with the division of household chores," Leupp said. "Women are sold a story that they can do it all, but most workplaces are still designed for employees without child-care responsibilities."

So what advice does Leupp have for working moms?

"Be gentle with yourself," she told HealthDay. "And accept that balancing work and family feels hard because it is hard, rather than feeling that guilty or unsuccessful."