Working mothers: give up the guilt and enjoy the time you have with your kids

Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on why working mothers should not feel guilty.


It is easy to see why working mothers often feel guilty. It is not easy to leave a baby crying at creche, or to miss a nativity play or a football match because you got caught in a meeting - especially when societal norms pressure women into feeling like they have to juggle everything without ever dropping a single ball. A poll on Workingmother.com revealed that 57 percent of working mothers feel guilty every single day, while 31 percent feel guilty at least once a week. But they shouldn’t.

First of all, working mothers are in the majority. In the US, 70 per cent of mothers with kids under the age of 18 work outside the home and some 40 per cent of these mothers are the main breadwinners in the family.

For decades, working mothers were blamed for a variety of problems in children's development, but new research has debunked much of this. The Harvard Business School has found that women whose mothers worked outside the home were more likely to work themselves, hold supervisory responsibility at their jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full-time. Mothers of sons can rejoice also, as the research found that men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members.

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Plus, new research from the University of Cologne revealed that being a working mother does not affect children’s early vocabulary and reasoning - contrary to popular opinion. The study compared children from similar family backgrounds and found that they developed comparable vocabulary and reasoning abilities, even if their mothers’ work histories in the first five years after birth differ vastly.

“Potential benefits and risks of mothers’ employment for child development are the subject of heated scientific and public debate,” Dr Michael Kühhirt from the Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology at the University of Cologne said. “But when it comes to the cognitive measures under study here, we found no evidence of harmful effects on the children of working mothers.”

It is inevitable that family life and professional life are going to clash from time to time, but the best thing you can do for your kids is to forgive yourself. Sitting around feeling guilty about not spending time with them will put a downer, or too much pressure, on the time you do have with them. Acknowledge that you need to or want to work to give them a better life. Realise you are setting a good example for them by working. Those days that you are inevitably struck with pangs of guilt, then say it out loud instead of keeping it inside. Talk to your partner or a trusted friend or family member about it. Do not dwell on the occasions that you have to miss something in your child’s life - instead, celebrate the times you can make it. Stop beating yourself up. Your kids love you and you are doing your best.

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