It’s hard to go back to work after becoming a mom—and a lot harder when you feel the weight of others’ beliefs about how having a working mom affects kids. But don’t worry so much, working mamas: A study of Scottish families found that moms going back to work doesn’t have much of an impact on kids’ development.
The study, recently published in the journal Child Development, examined 2,200 children born in 2005 and 2006. The kids were followed from about 10 months old until around their fifth birthdays. Their mothers’ employment histories were recorded annually, along with tests of the children’s development.
Researchers found that whether or not mom worked didn’t make much of a difference in the reasoning abilities or vocabularies of 5 year olds.
“The exaggerated claims of benefits and the harmful effects of working mothers on their children are not supported by our research, at least when it comes to early language acquisition and reasoning ability,” said study authors Dr. Markus Klein from Strathclyde University and Dr. Michael Kuhhirt from the University of Cologne in Germany in a July article for the academic website The Conversation.
The authors noted that not only is working not as bad as society—or your mother-in-law—sometimes makes it out to be, but it has obvious benefits to children.
“By bringing in money and raising the family income, working mothers may be able to provide a more stimulating and safer environment for their children,” the authors said. “This isn’t just a matter of more expensive toys or learning material but also better living conditions, better nutrition and reduced family stress.”
Their study cites earlier research that found the interactions between moms and kids are more cognitively stimulating when moms work, suggesting working mothers may be compensating for spending less time with their kids by making sure time spent together is true quality time filled with educational activities. The study also notes previous research that found working mothers read to their kids more.
The researchers recommend women be encouraged to choose whether or not they go back to work, and say putting pressure on a mom to stay at home isn’t going to improve a child’s development.
Klein and Kuhhirt found what many of us already know: That working mothers find ways to combine careers and children.