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Are Kids of Working Moms Really "Better Off"?
June 26, 2015
You've probably seen the new study going around that, as CNN put it "Kids of Working Moms Are Better Off". It's a report from a Harvard Business School Study that found that daughters of working mothers grow up to be more successful than their peers, and and sons of working moms are more likely to contribute to childcare and household chores.
I've seen this article all over my news feed lately in various forms, and while CNN's take on it, that kids of working moms are "better off" is the most misleading (CNN misleading? Never), every article seems to take the same stance that this automatically means that being a working mom is better/more beneficial/the best for every family. And while it reinforces what's working for our family, I'm reluctant to draw the same conclusions as the study.
I'm a working mom myself. I spend 3 days a week (and several hours on nights and weekends) at a law firm. And that works for me, makes me happy, and makes me feel empowered. And as I say, Happy Mom= Happy Kids. BUT, I grew up with a mom who was full time stay at home, and guess what? I ended up being "successful in the work place" and am in a "supervisory role", just like the daughters in the study who had working moms. So, I'm a little reluctant to think that working mom or not is what tipped the scales.
I'm sure the people who conducted the study at Harvard Business School, may have been a little biased in what they were looking for. But I think the larger flaw of the study is the difficulty in conducting a study which would conclude that "Kids of EMPOWERED CONFIDENT Moms are Better Off". Whether a mom is happy, confident, empowered, and viewed as an equal with her partner is a difficult thing to test for and likely can't be checked off so easily in a study questionnaire. But I suspect it is these characteristics that make for successful children. The catch is, I don't think these characteristics are found only in working moms.
There are a myriad of reasons why a mom will decide to stay at home or go back to work. It could be about inflexible hours, or a bad maternity policy, or it may not make financial sense, or a mom just may feel more empowered staying at home. Or as my own mother put it "I just knew no one else could raise you as well as I could." But it isn't work or not which is the defining characteristic of making a mother feel empowered or which makes them a role model for their children. For that, they draw on their friends, family, and how their own partner supports their decisions.
Making the decision to go back to work or not as parent is excruciating, difficult, and wrought with guilt, no matter what you ultimately decide to do. So let's all agree to support each others' decisions, rather than automatically concluding one is "better" than the other. There's only the "best", not "better", and that's what's "best" for YOUR family. And the only one who will ever know what's "best" for her own family, is each mom.