How being a working mom benefits your kids
Last month as I was preparing for my first work conference since the birth of my daughter I was struck with an immense amount of mom guilt—except this time it was guilt about being a working mom. I felt guilty for leaving the baby so shortly after a trip to Vegas earlier that month and I also felt guilty for leaving the conference early to get back home to said baby. I didn’t feel fully present for either my family or my job.
Even before becoming a mother, I was adamant that I would continue to work. Writing, for me, is more than a profession, it’s a calling. And I knew that to be my best self—let alone be a good mom—I needed a creative avenue. I needed to continue pursuing my professional and personal goals. I needed to not tamper my ambition, but rather explore it in new ways, similar to how Beyoncé and Serena Williams shifted gears after they became moms.
Yet doing so has sometimes left me feeling like I’m not doing either job—that of a writer and a mom—particularly well, which has led to depression and anxiety (along with 42% of working moms, according to a recent survey).
But I’ve taken comfort in a 2015 study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries that found daughters of working moms are more educated, more likely to be employed at higher levels and earned more money. In the United States specifically, daughters of working moms earned 23% more income than daughters of stay-at-home moms.
“Part of this working mothers’ guilt has been, ‘Oh, my kids are going to be so much better off if I stay home,’ but what we’re finding in adult outcomes is kids will be so much better off if women spend some time at work,” Kathleen McGinn, a professor at Harvard Business School and an author of the study, told The New York Times back then. “This is as close to a silver bullet as you can find in terms of helping reduce gender inequalities, both in the workplace and at home.”
Now, this is not to say one way of parenting is better than the other. For starters, researchers were unclear as to whether the mother’s career or education had more influence on their daughters.
Furthermore, I believe we can do better than the phrases “working mom” and “stay-at-home mom” because all parenting is labor and there are upsides and downsides to both lifestyles. For me and my family the upsides of having a career outside of running a household outweighed those of being the primary caregiver.
I believe that every mom should have the right and resources to decide what’s best for her when in reality the cost of living (not to mention childcare) in the U.S. often makes that decision for us. This matter of choice is one of the reasons Allison Robinson launched The Mom Project, a digital talent marketplace, in 2016.
After having her first child in 2015, Robinson realized how hard it is for moms to juggle the demands of parenting and a full-time career so she developed a company that aims to keep women engaged in the workforce on their own terms.
“Moms will achieve the impossible and make so many sacrifices to build a better future for their family,” says Robinson, who is also CEO of The Mom Project. “While navigating my own transition [into motherhood], I read that over 40% of American women leave the workforce after having children. The traditional job market didn’t appeal to many women and they didn’t feel seen, but I had a hypothesis that if you could connect incredible women with rewarding work opportunities that would really strengthen the economy.”
In developing The Mom Project, Robinson reflects on her own mom who took a step back from her career to raise her and her siblings, but later lacked the confidence to reenter the workforce.
“She was like nobody would hire me and it really shaped me in a way that I thought, oh my gosh, she doesn’t see in herself what I see in her,” Robinson recalls. “Daughters have such a special relationship with their mothers and whether you’re part of the paid workforce or your daughter sees you managing a household, it’s all important. You’re her role model.”
And when that mom guilt comes creeping in Robinson offers a friendly reminder to all moms to extend themselves grace.
“As moms we’re really hard on ourselves,” she says. “If we can all allow ourselves more license and more freedom to live the life best designed for us, we’ll be all the much better for that.”