Working moms are always full of guilt — guilt for not staying home with the kids, for not staying late at the office, for never doing enough, giving enough, or even just being enough.

The negative perceptions around being a working mom can finally come to an end — science actually says that working moms have more successful adult daughters.

Better Careers, Better Salaries, and Better Relationships

A major study conducted by Harvard University revealed that daughters of working mothers experienced better careers, higher salaries, and more equal relationships than daughters of stay-at-home moms. The study tested the association between being raised by an employed mother and adult children’s outcomes at work and at home. These sons and daughters appeared to have thrived, with adult daughters benefiting the most from the positive role model of a career-oriented mother.

Choices for Men and Women, At Work and At Home

The data collected spanned across 24 countries, including the US and UK, and was collected over a ten-year period, from 2002 to 2012. Not surprisingly, the effect on daughters’ careers was particularly marked in the UK and US, where public attitudes toward career equality posed more of a barrier than in some European countries such as Finland and Denmark. However, maternal employment still created a positive effect on adult daughters as they were more likely to to be employed, to hold supervisory responsibility if employed, to work more hours, and to earn marginally higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full-time.

Additionally, adult sons of working mothers were also more likely to spend more time caring for family members — indicating that whether parents chose to stay at home or be employed, children experience a positive benefit from exposure to a wide set of alternative role models and non-traditional gender roles.

No More “Mommy’s Guilt”

The study authors also indicated that their findings should strengthen the call for better childcare policies to help working parents. It’s no secret that one of the major barriers for women returning to work is the high cost of daycare, but this research helps justify the need for policymakers to make childcare more reasonably priced and affordable for working parents.

Some of the key findings from the Harvard study were:

  • Adult daughters of working moms were, on average, paid around 4% more than their peers, even after adjusting for levels of education and prevailing social attitudes, and were much more likely to have been promoted into managerial positions.
  • One in three daughters who were exposed to maternal employment were in managerial posts, compared with only one in four of those with non-working mothers.
  • Adult daughters of employed mothers were 16% more likely to hold supervisory responsibility in their jobs than women raised by stay‐at‐home mothers
  • While adult daughters of employed mothers spent less time on housework, maternal employment had no effect on their involvement in caring for the family.
  • Effects of maternal employment on adult sons were non‐significant, which suggests that working mothers provide role models that affect their daughters’ gender attitudes and choices without corresponding negative effects on their sons.
  • Sons of employed mothers reported spending an additional 55 minutes weekly caring for family members when compared to sons of stay‐at‐home mothers.

Benefits of Being a Working Mom

For those who have second-guessed returning to work after maternity leave, you can find relief in the research — there are real benefits to your children being exposed to maternal employment. We still have a long way to go in terms of fully shifting cultural attitudes towards full gender equality, but this research makes it clear that making the workplace more family-friendly, improving the availability and quality of part-time work and flexible working, and investing in childcare are vital to helping individuals achieve better work-life balance.

Featured photo credit: Goodluz via shutterstock.com

Set a Goal For Yourself

Read full content