In 2015, an international study by Harvard Business School assured us working moms that there are long-term benefits for our children after all. According to research by Kathleen McGinn and colleagues, women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to (1.) have jobs themselves, (2.) hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and (3.) earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time.
Wait; there’s more!
Men raised by working mothers are more likely to (4.) contribute to household chores and (5.) spend more time caring for family members.
While all this is welcome, positive reinforcement that having a working mom can benefit our children’s future, there are some immediate advantages that we can take comfort from as well.
6. Our kids tend to be more flexible.
Children thrive on routine, but the child of a working parent knows that sometimes things have to get bumped. That puzzle might have to pause for a return phone call; the morning routine may have to be condensed to accommodate Mom’s early meeting; and inevitably you’re going to be late for pick-up some day(s). But what our children learn from these experiences is that sometimes you have to roll with change. And that even if Mom or Dad can’t meet their preferred needs at that moment, the puzzle will get done; they’ll still get breakfast and a warm hug; and they will be picked up. When they know they can count on you regardless of wayward schedules, eventually they can be very Zen about the little things.
7. They learn early lessons about economics.
Every parent gets the question: Why do you have to go to work? When children understand that you’re working in part to contribute financially to the household in which they live, they come to appreciate where the money comes from, which in turn becomes teachable moments about budgeting and savings. They also learn that they’re an important part of the equation: Their job is to go to daycare or school while your job is to go to the office to earn a salary. You both need each other to make that happen.
8. They get more quality time.
A Journal of Marriage and Family 2015 study indicated that whether you work outside the home or not, kids tend to spend the same amount of time with their moms. The difference was the quality of that time. That’s because as working moms, when we’re on, we’re on and we tend to give them 100 percent of our time. Before work, after work, weekends and holidays often revolve around special time with our kids since we need those special bonds as much as they do. When you have a very set schedule, you tend to make every moment with your child count. This only gets more important in adolescence when the only time you’re likely to get them to talk is when you’re engaged in an activity together.
9. They become good planners.
A follow-up to #8 is that a lot of that quality time comes from activities that you plan together. How often do you hear yourself say, “We’ll make sure to set aside time to go to X this weekend”? “What special activity do you want to do tonight?” Not only does this help them to think ahead but also empowers them to have a say in what your time together looks like. My young adult daughters still plan “Mommy dates,” which is why this month I’m going to a beading class with one and on a chocolate tour with the other—all arranged by them!
10. They are more independent.
The simple reality of your family’s schedule fosters an atmosphere in which kids are expected to be more responsible. In order to get out the door each day, they have to help get themselves ready, which means knowing where their belongings are. When they’re old enough to come home after school, they undoubtedly have duties, like letting out the dog, taking in the mail or helping to start dinner. These life skills teach them early what happens if they forget their sneakers on gym day and no one is home to bring them to school.