Kids With Working Moms Are Just As Happy As Kids With Stay-At-Home Moms, Study Finds

"People still have this belief that when moms are employed, it’s somehow detrimental to their children."

Many modern mothers face an internal struggle not many fathers must deal with: should they stay home with their children or return to the workforce after giving birth? Regardless of which option works best for their family, these women must then endure the criticism that ensues. Working mothers are judged for continuing their professional pursuits, often perceived as selfish for having a life outside the home. However, according to a new study, these moms have nothing to be ashamed of because their actions don't hinder their children's growth in any way.

According to the preliminary results of the Harvard Business School's study in 2015, the daughters of working mothers are more likely to be employed, hold supervisor roles, and earn more than the daughters of stay-at-home mothers. The full study, however, digs even deeper, revealing that, with regard to overall life satisfaction, children of working moms turn out to be just as happy as kids of stay-at-home moms. In fact, they might actually become more productive and happy than their stay-at-home counterparts, thereby absolving working mothers of the latent guilt that often taints their professional life.

"People still have this belief that when moms are employed, it's somehow detrimental to their children," Harvard Business School professor and lead researcher Kathleen McGinn said of the findings published in Work, Employment and Society. "So our finding that maternal employment doesn't affect kids' happiness in adulthood is really important."

"Women are socialized to believe mothers should stay home with their children, so when you separate from your kids every day for work, it can be painful," McGinn added. "As we gradually understand that our children aren't suffering, I hope the guilt will go away."


Much like the initial reveal, the final results reinforced the strong link between working mothers and their daughter's future work performance. Daughters of working moms are 1.21 times more likely to be employed regardless of the mother's skill level and 1.29 times more likely to occupy supervisor roles if their mother worked a medium- or high-skill job. In the U.S., specifically, daughters of working mothers earn $1,880 more per year than those of stay-at-home mothers.

McGinn and her team also discovered that, while boys' careers aren't influenced by their working mom, sons typically spend an extra 50 minutes per week caring for family members, and hold more flexible gender attitudes than daughters of stay-at-home mothers. On average, the daughters of working mothers also spend an hour less on housework than children of stay-at-home mothers, while both sons and daughters of working mothers obtain more education than the offspring of stay-at-home mothers.

Thus, while society might try to guilt mothers into staying home with their children, science says that this sort of tunnel vision isn't necessary. Children that are surrounded by love and stability are most likely to succeed regardless of their mother's job status. In fact, as the study suggests, children might not say anything directly, but they're paying attention to the ways their mom balances the various sectors of  her life and subsequently applying what they're seeing in their own lives as adults. After all, children frequently learn by emulating the adults in their lives. Lead by example and they will grow up to become productive, happy adults, too.

Cover image via Halfpoint / Shutterstock

(H/T: Working Mother)


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