For years, traditional wisdom has held that when both halves of a couple works, they spend less time together and are thus less happy in their marriages.

A new study, however, seems to disprove that theory.

Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles and Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that the challenges of outside employment provide a sense of purpose and lead to more energy at home. In fact, women who have busy workloads are actually more satisfied in their marriages – even if they’re working mothers.

It’s also possible that when women are home less, their husbands help more with housework (leading to a happier wife). In addition, double-income couples tend to have more money, which could mean fewer arguments about household finances.

But Ellen Ernst Kossek, professor and associate director at the Center for Work Family and Health at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, believes it’s about more than money, saying, “Even if it’s not a high-prestige job, if it’s meaningful work that fits with the people’s identity and helps the family in some way, they can get plenty of satisfaction out of it.”

Whitney Botsford Morgan, assistant professor of management at the University of Houston-Downtown, also feels a mother’s professional achievements can carry over to a family’s overall happiness. “If a mother receives recognition at work for job well done on a major project, she may share this good news with her husband and/or want to ‘celebrate’ with her family,” says Morgan. “In effect, the positive work experience ‘spreads’ to husband and/or children.”

Whatever the reason, the study is intriguing and may shape future opinions about the so-called “stigma” of mothers who work outside the home.

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