By Chaunie Brusie, for Babble.com
Image courtesy of Thinkstock
Every now and then I have one of those days at home with my kids where I just have to grit my teeth and get through it.
It’s hard to explain that feeling of desperation that can take over you as a stay-at-home mom. The mental fog; the bleakness that overwhelms you as you look ahead to the endless stretch of days ahead. How much effort it takes to fight the daily urge to lay your head down and just sleep.
Of course, despite these days, I’ve always felt like me staying home with my kids was the best scenario we could ever hope for as a family. Despite the evidence that children of working moms do just fine, if I’m being brutally honest (and I always am), I’ve always believed that kids thrive the most with a stay-at-home parent. How could they not? After all, no one can love your kid like you can.
The stay-at-home lifestyle didn’t always come naturally to me, but in my mind, it was important because it was what was best for my children. I needed to do it, not for me, but for them.
However, a new study out of Harvard suggests that moms like myself, who stay home primarily because we believe it’s best for our kiddos, may not be giving them the best start to life after all.
“Part of this working mothers’ guilt has been, ‘Oh, my kids are going to be so much better off if I stay home,’ but what we’re finding in adult outcomes is kids will be so much better off if women spend some time at work,” Kathleen McGinn, the Harvard researcher who led the study, recently told the New York Times. McGinn and her team found that, even with controlling for age, education, and other factors that could have played a role in their findings, there are long-lasting benefits of having a working mother for both male and female children.
Some of the benefits include:
Daughters who would go on to earn 23% more than their counterparts with stay-at-home mothers.
Sons who would be more involved partners some day, spending more future time on both child care and house work.
Daughters of working mothers were also more likely to have leadership positions, such as a supervisor, than those of non-working mothers.
I think the important takeaway from this study is not necessarily that there is one “right” or “wrong” way to raise kids, but that flexibility for work-life balance is what makes parents’ worlds go `round. Work is a necessary part of life for many parents now, whether you “choose” it or not, and it’s not doing anyone any favors to villainize it, idolize it, or pretend it doesn’t exist for moms.
This study is a promising glimpse into a future that acknowledges the practical realities of working motherhood, with a look at some of the real benefits working can provide our children. And really, most of us aren’t asking for much. If you can put in a good day’s work, know your child is well-cared for, and still make it to his T-ball game, that’s a good day indeed. Heck, maybe this study will put an end once and for all to any working-mom guilt.
For me though, this study definitely made me think more deeply about the struggles I have with being a stay-at-home mom. While I don’t think I would change anything about my own life (honestly, with four young kids, sick days alone would kill me) but I can’t help but wonder …
If we knew without a doubt that staying at home was not best for our kids, how many of us would still choose it?
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