As we hit what I like to call ‘life strides’ in our late twenties and early thirties, most of us will happily boast about our productivity; how much we’re achieving with limited hours during the day, with hectic social lives and even busier jobs. How, given the frenzied pace of day-to-day, could we ever hope to cram more in than we are already?
The answer, according to a stack of research, is when you have children. It’s an interesting theory – that your productivity could double when you have even less time to devote to everything as a result of raising a family – but has been looked at by many. This study (in which researchers wanted to test whether parents, especially mothers, were less productive than their peers without kids) – indicates that over the lifespan of a 30-year career, women with children outperform childless workers at nearly every stage of the game.
The study looked at numbers to reach its findings; compiled of research from nearly 10,000 economists. They asked the economists about how many kids they had, when they had them and ultimately found that in every single time period, women with children are producing more than those with none. Kids, it seems, are the ultimate efficiency hack. It surely isn’t just a numbers game, but down to the fact that as women, we excel when it comes to multitasking. We can manage the deadlines, meetings, and the millionth birthday party to organise, likely because we subconsciously know we have less time to do it in, and hence become more efficient. It ties into the “having it all complex” in which we will try to do everything (and then some) even with the addition of a family.
Women’s productivity advantage – despite it dipping when children are small – also comes despite the “motherhood penalty,” which researchers have noted makes the effects of parenthood significantly worse for women than for men; the reduction in productivity for parents of multiple preteens is 19.1% for mothers, for example, and 5.4% for fathers – a significant drop.
Yet women gain back that productivity. Study author, Christian Zimmermann told the Washington Post: “While you have small children, it has an impact on you. But after that, it seems that the impact is the other way.”
The results are undoubtedly vindicating to working parents (and specifically, working women), but this isn’t intended to make those without children feel bad. You’ll feel triumphant because of the hecticness and invariable guilt you’ll know too well if you’re working and raising children; the mad dash at out the door in the mornings, the dread if they get sick while in the office and the scramble to get them to bed in the evenings. Everything is busy, frequently rushed, so while you’re accomplishing an incredible amount, you’ll likely still lament the aspects you can’t devote proper time to. So, at the very least, you can be proud of just how productive you are.