Deciding whether to return to work after the birth of a child is a tough decision that most women (and some men) have to face during their careers.
At the end of the day, it is up to each individual to make the choice that suits them and their circumstances best. If you want to be a stay-at-home mum, great! If you want to get back to work straight away, fantastic! If you want to take a year out, go for it! There is no right or wrong option.
Despite this fact, many women still face discrimination and prejudice when they decide to return to work. According to a recent Pew report, a third of Americans believe that the ”ideal situation” for young children is one where their mother doesn’t work outside the home.
In a similar vein, the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found that men still prefer mums to stay at home.
There is a common misconception that the children of working mothers suffer in the long term. Thankfully, a brand new study has dismissed these claims once and for all.
The study which was published in the journal, Work, Employment and Society in April found that working mothers have an overwhelmingly positive influence on their children.
“There’s a lot of talk about why women work,” says Kathleen McGinn, the study’s author and a professor at Harvard Business School. “A lot of those questions presume that, somehow, it’s detrimental to their families. That’s a whole bunch of ‘mother guilt’ based on almost no findings.”
The researchers dug through family and career data on more than 100,000 men and women. They found that children of working mothers tend to lead different lives than those with stay-at-home mums (notice that we said different not better or worse).
The biggest impact can be seen on the daughters of working mums. The researchers found that they are more likely to have better and higher paying jobs.
Sons, for their part, grow up to spend more time doing household chores and caring for their kids if their mums had careers.
The researchers believe that these results are because children internalise social norms. People tend to have more egalitarian views on gender roles if they had working mothers.
McGinn’s team also found that we are likely to repeat the patterns that are modeled for us in childhood. Adults who grew up in a home where both parents worked, and split household chores, are probably going to repeat those patterns when they start their own families.
That’s not to say that stay-at-home mums are damaging their children’s future. McGinn stresses that there is no right or wrong way to parent.
However, as more mums enter the workforce the results may serve as a little confidence booster.