MOMMYHOOD: Goodbye Working Mom's Guilt-For Now Atleast!
Yesterday TIME magazine published a short article about a recent 50 year study around children with working mothers. The surprising (or maybe not so surprising) news is that children of working mothers are doing just fine-great in fact! Now I want to clarify something before I go on, I am not making a comparison of children with stay at home Moms versus working Moms. All Moms are working their post-partum tushies off and are keeping it all together. Why I felt the need to share this study and talk about it is simple: working mom's guilt. I have had plenty of social stigma and worry for my child since I had to go back to work. And now there is finally a scientific study that is saying that I don't need to feel that way anymore.
I know this is a very emotional and socially charged subject. There are strong beliefs out there that a woman's role is still at home with her children. Period. But many women have had to make a hard choice to work and contribute to their households, especially with the recent economic downturn. Whether you have to or want to, the decision to leave your children to go to work is a hard one wrought with much guilt and worry. If you are a working mother like me, I know deep down inside you have wondered if your children have been missing out on a lot with you not there for them all day. But what has certainly bubbled up to the surface during this study is that whatever they are missing (if anything) you are making up for by being a hard-working, "go-getting" role model for your child, instilling in them independence and self esteem. The study states that from seeing their Moms hustling and bustling they tend to become high achievers with better GPAs later in life. They see that hard work gets rewards first hand, and learn to live by those ethics. This is not to say that stay-at-home Moms don't work hard. In fact, there is a great quote from Jane Sellman that states "The phrase "working mother" is redundant." The truth is, Moms work hard! The hard work ethic needs to be instilled by you as a parent-regardless if you go to work or not. But children of Moms that do go to work see it a little more in action with the rewards being more tangible (praise, awards, travel, promotions, bonuses and paychecks). Sadly, stay at home moms are unsung, unpaid heros with no monetary reward. I read somewhere that a stay at home Mom should make an annual salary of around $140,000. If we could all make that, then none of us would have to go to work, right!?
Interestingly enough for me, my working mom's guilt has kept my home-time in check, which this article alludes to. I think working moms know they can't take their time with their children for granted. Yes, we do spend less time with them, but we try and make it more about QUALITY time because we know we can't have QUANITY. When I am home with my daughter, I pass on the mediocre chores and TV shows or sometimes even order in dinner versus making it to really spend time with her. I focus on playing, reading, crafting or helping her with homework. I cherish the time I do have with her because I know I don't have a lot of it. Working moms need to be more conscientious of time with our children, and we protect it fiercely.
The article also mentioned that children of working mothers are more independent away from the home-probably because they had to at a young age on account of either going to day care or being cared by another family member or nanny. I am not sure if I agree with this completely, I think it depends on your child's personality. I do remember my daughter being able to have me leave the room without a meltdown and more open to meeting other people. But if it was a room of people at a party, she was still shy and I still had the first week of preschool melt downs at the classroom door! I guess time will tell if my daughter has a little more independence as a young woman through my example. But right now, the time I am at home she is very needy-almost possessive of me and our time together on weeknights after work-and that's OK.
Another point brought up that was something I did not think about was the subject of resources. With a Mom contributing financially to a household adds more the child can do to enrichen their life. More resources seemed to mean happy children. Not because they have money or are spoiled, but because they could go on vacations with their family, have access to extracurricular activities, have a better diet and a more comfortable or secure home. Security and comfort is the best thing you can give a child, and sometimes you have to go to work to achieve that environment.
And here is something that the article doesn't bring up and may be controversial for some of you- I often waffle on it myself, and that is about Mom's self esteem. A happy Mom means a happy house and happy children. Sometimes, going to work does help give a Mom something that is just for her, growing her knowledge, making new friends and getting fulfillment through praise and monetary reward. The trade off is stress, time constraints and lack of time with your kids. There are some days I wish I stayed at home! Then, I really think about it and I ask myself, would I be happy and challenged? I am not sure. I guess I can blog while my daughter is at school-but even that is technically working. The reality is that eventually, kids leave home and start their own lives, and if you did not maintain a little of yourself in that long journey, then you will be at a crossroads later in life. But isn't motherhood a series of crossroads anyway? I guess you make the decision to work or not, and depending on which road you choose then, you will be greeted with many more. Well, if this study is right, the working mom road, should you choose it, is not as rocky with pot holes as you may have originally thought.
Here is the TIME article-