The Benefits of Having a Working Mom Are Long-Lasting for Girls and Boys, Says Harvard Study

Here's a must-read if you experience mom guilt on the regular.

By: Amanda Mushro

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Cute little baby playing on the floor by her working mother.  Young mother with a baby and a dog, sitting on the floor and working. High angle of view.


Cute little baby playing on the floor by her working mother. Young mother with a baby and a dog, sitting on the floor and working. High angle of view.

Photo by: J_art


Being a working mom is hard. We’re always trying to find a balance between our home life and our work life. A lot of times, this balancing act seems impossible, and it can send us spiraling into some serious mom guilt. We’re trying to be a great role model for our kids and a great employee at work — and on top of that, someone needs to clean the house, do the laundry, and make dinner as soon as you get home. So, if you are feeling guilty, overwhelmed, or wondering if being a working mom is actually hurting your kids, we want you to keep reading.

According to a Harvard study, there are numerous benefits for both girls and boys who have a working mom — and many of these benefits follow them into adulthood. Here’s a spoiler: Adults who had a working mom reported they were just as happy as adults who had a stay-at-home mom.

The Harvard study was first released in 2015 and a few years later, researchers updated and added more information about their findings. More than 100,000 men and women across 29 different countries were surveyed on their careers, how much time they devoted to being a parent, and how much time they spent on household chores.

Here are a few things they noted:

Both women and men who had working mothers when they were kids had more education than adults with moms who did not work outside the home. Also, daughters of working moms often performed better in their careers as adults than the daughters of stay-at-home moms. They tended to have supervisor positions and often made more money. Another interesting note is that these women also spent 44 more minutes at work each week and did one hour less of household chores per week (on average).

When it comes to men, the study found that their employment was more closely linked to their fathers’ status, but men who had a working mom usually married a woman who also worked. These men spent an extra 50 minutes a week helping out with the parenting duties.

Even though we think our kids aren’t paying attention to us, researchers say this isn’t true. Especially when it comes to having a working mother who is focused on work/life balance.

"Having an employed mom makes daughters think that employment is compatible with parenting," says Kathleen L. McGinn, a Harvard Business School professor who co-led the study. "If you’re actually observing an employed mom manage a complex life and handle multiple demands — a job, a family, a household — you see that it can work. Everything we know about role models and social learning suggests that children are actively picking up life skills from the adults around them. It’s all about what they’re exposed to as children."

So, if that guilt starts to creep in about having to go to work, rest assured that your little one is doing fine now and will be just fine in the future.

"People still have this belief that when moms are employed, it’s somehow detrimental to their children," says McGinn. "So, our finding that maternal employment doesn’t affect kids' happiness in adulthood is really important."

Keep up the good work, mom. Your kids are proud of you!


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