Today 70% of American mothers work outside the home. Many of the mothers - including many that are part of the Fairygodboss community - wrestle with guilt and ambivalence about their “decision” to work. (And for many, working is a necessity...not a decision at all.)
Mothers constantly worry that their time at work away from the family may have a negative effect on their children. That’s why we were so heartened to see this phenomenal video produced by Solana Pyne and Erik German (a wife and husband team!) from Quartz in partnership with Retro Report. Their video report debunks a core, oft-quoted statistic that said that working mothers spend 40% less time with their children than non-working mothers of the previous generation.
In fact, Pyne reveals research showing that working mothers are actually increasing their time in primary caregiving and interaction, i.e.,reading and playing with kids, changing and feeding, etc. There is even evidence to indicate that over the years even total time spent with family has increased.
Furthermore, it is a fallacy that the June Cleaver perfect housewife of the 1950s was a more attentive and involved mother than working mothers of contemporary times. Pyne’s video reveals that housewives of that era were far too busy with housework, husband and other duties to spend much developmental time with kids.
Another critical point made by Pyne’s video: Parental leave for fathers is actually the key ingredient that could improve possible outcomes for children. Pyne’s presents research that reveals a strong correlation between the involvement of fathers and language skills and empathy in children. Apparently the bonds that fathers form with their children immediately starting from birth have a meaningful impact on the children, and hence it follows that if men are allowed to spend more time with their children via paid parental leave, American children will benefit as a result.
Pyne’s work follows nicely in the footsteps of another study released last year by Harvard Business School that daughters of working mothers earned 23% more than daughters of stay-at-home moms.
At Fairygodboss, we believe that whatever path you take as a parent - be it working or stay-at-home or any of the multitude of flavors in between - is not only acceptable, but good for your children. We all have to work hard to find the right recipe for ourselves and our families, and perspectives, preferences and experiences are highly personal. It will almost certainly be a voyage filled with trial-and-error and frequent course corrections as circumstances change. But two factors that should never be the reason for your decision are guilt and self-doubt.
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