Search icon


04th Aug 2019

This study reveals children growing up with a working mum do better in life

I LOVE being a mum the most. But I LOVE being a writer too. And I combine the two by being a working mum.

Sure there are times where life with two working parents involves a little (a lot) of juggling, and I know I was in the very lucky position as a freelance journalist that I could work from home, so that mine were close to 2.5 before they went to creche, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t miss them when I am in work, because I do. But I also know that should I have opted out of office work and stayed at home full time, I would have missed working too.

Maybe it’s a cultural thing, as growing up in Scandinavia, the absolute vast majority of mums go back to work after having children (even most women of my grandmother’s generation had careers and worked outside the home). This is, of course, made much more possible by state subsidised and very affordable childcare, and has ensured that the pay gap and career gap between men and women are a lot less prominent there – which again means that most women want to continue on in their careers after having had children.

The thing is, though, once you have children, no matter what you do, there will always be that little voice inside your head wondering if you are doing the right thing – going back to work included.

Which is why this recent American study, claiming that mums working outside the home is of no damage to children, was of comfort to me – and, I am sure, to working mams everywhere.

According to the Harvard Business School, where a recent study looked at 50,000 adults in 25 countries, they found a massive positive impact on daughters of working mums. In fact, daughter of mums who went out to work, in addition to having higher employment rates overall, also have higher incomes and more supervisory roles as adults.

working mum

“Part of this ‘working mother 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,” study author Kathleen McGinn tells The New York Times.

The correlation held true across all 25 countries, but proved especially strong in the US, where daughters of working mums earn 23 percent more than those of stay-at-home mums. And while money is not the measure of success, of course, the study also proved how men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members.

“There are very few things, that we know of, that have such a clear effect on gender inequality as being raised by a working mother,” McGinn, herself a Professor of Business Administration, explains.

“This is our best clue that what’s happening is a real role modelling of skills that somehow conveys to you, ‘Here’s a way to behave, here’s a way you can cope with the various demands of work and home’.”

Sceptics were quick to question if there indeed could have been other factors involved, such as wouldn’t children do better because of the benefits of a working mother’s presumed higher education? Or wouldn’t higher household incomes give them a leg up? But according to the study author, all factors like income and education were accounted for in the study.