As a working mama, I can't tell you how many times I've been told that I am missing out on my toddler's childhood. After all, most adults believe kids prosper when one parent stays at home, and mom is usually the default in that scenario. So, as I log hours, furiously typing away at my laptop, I'm often wracked with guilt for not leaving my journalism career in order to take care of my son.
Still, I know I made the right choice, and science backs me up: Research shows mothers who work have long-lasting positive effects on their kids, all the way into adulthood.
A 2015 Harvard Business School study found that adult children raised by moms who worked outside of the home experienced a significant career boosts of their own. In particular, researchers discovered that women with working mamas were more likely to be employed, work as supervisors and earn at least 23% more than women with at-home moms.
Men with moms who worked, on the other hand, were more likely to spend time taking care of family members and doing chores around the house, according to the research—meaning that working mothers help promote more equal levels of responsibilities.
Similar effects were seen in a recent study out of Denmark, which found working mothers positively influence their daughters' careers and contribute to reducing the gender income gap.
“There are very few things that we know of, that have such a clear effect on gender equality as being raised by a working mother," says Kathleen L. McGinn, a Harvard business professor who co-led the study. “The direct effects are significant across the board."
This isn't the only study to show that being raised by a working mom doesn't harm kids: Research published last year in the journal Child Development found that, despite prevailing myths, mothers who worked did not have negative impacts on their children's development, as measured by reasoning skills or vocabularies.
Plus, an American Psychological Association meta-analysis published in 2010 discovered that children raised by working mamas had no significant behavior, social or learning issues. In fact, they were on track for academic success.
Knowing this likely won't erase all working mom guilt—but it sure helps to keep in mind.
As McGinn says, “[W]hat this research says to us is that not only are you helping your family economically—and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love—but you're also helping your kids."
That last point bears repeating: Working mamas help their kids in all areas of life. So it's time we stop shaming them for having careers.
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