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50 Years of Research: Kids of Working Moms Just Fine

A review of 50 years of research has determined that kids whose moms work turn out just fine. The text of the study from the Psychological Bulletin, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Psychological Association can be found here.

I actually waded into this study a bit, since I’m extremely interested in this subject. Here are the first few lines:

This meta-analysis of 69 studies (1,483 effect sizes) used random effects models to examine maternal employment during infancy/early childhood in relation to 2 major domains of child functioning:  achievement and behavior problems. Analyses of studies that spanned 5 decades indicated that, with a few exceptions, early employment was not significantly associated with later achievement or internalizing/externalizing behaviors.

This study focused on moms who went back to work before their children were three, and it didn’t find any negative associations between working moms and kids. In fact, kids of working moms had two positive associations. They “were later rated as higher-achieving by teachers and had fewer problems with depression and anxiety.”

The one caveat for working moms is for those who go back to work before their children turn one.  Those kids had slightly lower academic scores than the kids of non-working moms. But children whose moms who went back to work when the child was one or two had higher scores, and over three years, the effects evened out. So the conclusion here is that perhaps better maternity leave in the US (yes!) would be beneficial for kids. (Duh.)

I sincerely believed, when I was pregnant, that I would be one of those moms who just would not be able to go back to work when I had a baby. And I remember feeling a little judgemental of moms who did enjoy working. Amazing how we know just about EVERYthing about being parents before we actually become parents.

As it turned out, for me, going back to work was awesome. And I don’t even like my job that much.  But I quickly realized that staying at home full time would drive me nuts and couldn’t possibly be good for me or my kid. So now I work part time and I get out early enough to take the kid to the park every day. And we have fantastic, high quality daycare, for which I’m extremely grateful.

I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to juggle working and being a parent. It’s exhausting, as anyone who does it knows. But I love working. And let’s face it, if I didn’t do it, my family would be homeless. The economy did it’s best to kill us in the last couple years. I’ve taken a 15% paycut as a teacher. And my husband stopped working altogether for a long while. So in our case, mommy working was the only thing that kept off food stamps–barely.

When I went back to work, I thought the first day would be tough. And I would have shocked my pre-parent self by saying this: it wasn’t tough at all. I loved being a working person again and getting to put on my cheap-ass semi-professional clothes. I loved making copies. I loved people telling me cheesy jokes in the elevator. I was so happy to be back in my office. Work was like a day spa compared to staying at home with a baby. And lucky me, I don’t have to work all day, so I still got to go home and spend time with the baby.

This topic always brings up a lot of emotions, so sure, let’s just get it out of the way and say that if you stay home all day with your kids and you love it, great! That is really wonderful for you. I would become like Jack Nicholson in The Shining if I were home all day. It just doesn’t work for me.

And there was something in my gut that told me that it was probably going to be just fine, in spite of dire warnings that daycare was negative for kids. Let’s hope this study will be backed up by future literature on this subject. I really would love for more moms to be happy about working, if that’s what they want to do.


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