In a recent article from Theglasshammer.com, author Aimee Hansen opines that being a working mother is not only good for your children but also promotes gender equality in the workplace. (Hansen Article). This is good news for working mothers like me. Indeed, as a full-time attorney in a busy Northeast law firm with two young children, and the daughter of a full-time working mother, growing up in the 80s, I was thrilled to read this. Certainly, I am not immune to the “working-mom” guilt that I suppose every working mother feels from time to time and, without question, there are days I wish I could clone myself to be in two places at once. That being said, I truly enjoy my job and the opportunity to help clients navigate legal minefields. Thus, I can only hope that the author is right, that through my choices I am being a good role model for my son and my daughter and helping them to succeed as adults.
And I am happy to report that Hansen’s conclusions are well-founded. Hansen discusses a recent Harvard Business School study of over 30,000 adults exploring how having a working mother as a child affects educational, economic, and social outcomes as an adult. In this study, a “working mother” is defined as a mother who ever worked outside the home in any capacity before the child was 14 years old. Interestingly, the study found that daughters of working mothers completed more education and ultimately became employed in supervisory roles, earning higher incomes than daughters of non-working mothers. Likewise, sons of working mothers also benefit in that they perform more household chores and caretaking responsibilities as adults than sons of non-working mothers. Citing lead researcher Dr. Kathleen McGinn, Hansen writes that the study’s results, “[are] as close to a silver bullet as you can find in terms of helping reduce gender inequalities, both in the workplace and at home.”
Hansen describes how the study examined the impact of alternative parental role models, specifically, how the working mother’s conduct demonstrates to her children that women can work both inside and out of the home. In other words, showing daughters that it is okay and normal for women to go to work and for sons to see that everyone works together at home for the good of the family.
Ultimately, Hansen explains, the study reveals that there is no one path for parenting and that this research hopes to dispel the notion that being raised by a working mother is bad for children. Specifically, the research reveals that respondents with working mothers themselves were less negative about the notion of working mothers. In the end, Hansen suggests that there is no “right” or wrong choice for parenting: the study does not mean that mothers should work outside the home; rather, it demonstrates that there are benefits to the alternative role modeling. This is music to this non-clonable, working-mom’s ears.
Emily J. Bordens is an associate at Bressler, Amery & Ross, PC in Florham Park, New Jersey.