Many working mothers worry if their kids will end up OK. Especially when they are “leaning in” to both the workplace and home at the same time.
But the kids will be alright. Even if you have to spend many hours away from them every day.
The reality is that 70 percent of mothers with kids under 18 work outside the home, and 40 percent are breadwinners. With the high cost of living in some cities, many moms have no choice but to work.
There is, however, good news, according to recent evidence. Many studies show that having a working mother is not only suitable for financial reasons – but the situation has several positives for kids and the family as well.
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As an ER nurse, I often see firsthand how lucky I am just to have healthy children.
Every single day I work with the parents of kids who are sick, some chronically. It’s hard for me to feel sorry for myself when I see how hard they struggle. It’s a perspective that I wish more people had because it puts the challenges of working motherhood (and stay-home motherhood) into perspective.
There are so many societal pressures about what mothers should be doing. Many are unspoken rules that we find ourselves following even though we don’t realize it. It’s likely that we are just so ridiculously busy that we don’t have time to examine these thoughts and feelings to see if they are even true.
But these insidious thoughts about working mom guilt feel genuine, and that’s why we feel so guilty about them. Our children are the centerpieces in our lives – especially when they are little – but it doesn’t mean that they can’t function without us looking over their shoulders each minute of the day.
My kids don’t need me every time they color in their coloring books or create art; they don’t need me spoon-feeding them their meals. If they are hungry they figure it out.
They certainly don’t need me welcoming them with Pinterest-friendly snacks every time they come through the door.
Giving our kids space also gives them autonomy to learn on their own, in their way.
Children build self-esteem by figuring out how to do things by themselves. It makes them feel good, and they like to repeat the things that make them feel good about themselves. It is a recipe for healthy personal growth and self-development.
Maybe, as mothers, we just need to get out of our kid’s way and let them do their thing.
And finally, for once and for all, let’s stop feeling guilty.
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Here is more evidence for those with working mom guilt:
#1. Studies show that daughters and sons benefit from having a working mom
According to a Harvard research study, daughters of working moms are more likely to advance in their careers, and sons of working moms go on to spend 50 minutes more each week caring for their own families.
As a working mother of both a daughter and a son, it was good to hear that working would positively benefit my children’s participation in both work and home. The study showed that having a working mom did not influence the future careers of sons one way or another. However, it did show that mother’s employment was linked to how much their sons participate with their own children later on in life.
The take-away is that working mothers have a chance to help their daughters be more financially independent as adults – and help teach sons to participate as fathers.
#2. Kids of working moms are just as happy
The same Harvard study later showed that kids of working moms wind up just as happy in adulthood as the children of moms who stayed home.
The belief that having a working mother is somehow damaging their children is just not true. For mothers with concerns that their working outside of the home is somehow making their children unhappy, this should bring some relief.
#3. Working moms may be happier
The outrageous amount of multitasking that many mothers are required to do to have a career and care for children can be overwhelming. However, despite the challenges that come with finding a work-life balance, many moms who work say they’re healthier and happier than moms who stay at home.
This tells me that mothers can – and should- do what makes them happy. If that means staying at home, great! If having a career works better for you and your family, then that is OK too.
#4. Being out of the workforce for even a few years causes women’s earnings to plummet
Many women already earn 70 cents to the dollar than men in similar jobs. But add time taken off for childbearing years, and women are also paying something known as “the mommy tax.” Being a stay-at-home mom costs a lot of money.
Ann Crittenden wrote a book called The Price Of Motherhood: Why The Most Important Job In The World Is Still The Least Valued. She makes a few interesting points: about the cost of mothers leaving the workplace:
- A couple with a total income of $81,500, and two equally capable partners, could lose as much as $1,350,000 in lifetime income if they have a child.
And another about how stay-at-home mothers receive fewer benefits then nannies:
- Nannies qualify for Social Security benefits, but mothers at home do not. Unpaid caregivers are not covered by the same social safety net that covers other workers.
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It is OK to enjoy being a working mom
Don’t succumb to the guilt of being a working mom. It’s OK, really.
Being a working mom often provides many women with cerebral stimulation that they don’t get at home.
I love being an emergency room nurse. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought extraordinary stress and adversity, but I am still 100% nurse. I am challenged and stimulated while I am working with patients in a way that I’m not at home. I have had the opportunity to see more disease states, complex injuries, and unusual diagnoses than I ever could have imagined even existed.
It would not be an exaggeration to say I learn ten new things every day at work. Also, I am surrounded by some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Many of my co-workers have the same drive for helping people I do. They motivate me to keep learning.
The bottom line is to find what is right for your family, no guilt attached. Do what works for you to keep your family functioning, healthy, and happy.
It may mean lowering the bar in some other areas of our lives. There is no winner for the cleanest house. Saying that your home is messy because you play with your kids is a privilege. And I am so grateful for that privilege on the days I don’t work.
Whatever kind of mom you are – free yourself of the judgment that what you are doing is wrong or bad. And funnel that energy into creating a family life that engages, inspires, and invites joy into your days.
Your time is worth it.