Study reveals children benefit from having a working mum

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Should mums go to work or stay home? The mummy wars have done little to dampen the guilt felt on both sides of equation, but for those who spend many hours away from the kids working, this latest research is heartening.

Women whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have a job and earn higher wages than daughters of full-time stay-at-home mums, according to a new study. The research into the sons of working mothers is just as fascinating.

Here’s what Harvard Business School’s Professor Kathleen McGinn, who co-authored the study, has to say. “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.”

The research was conducted across 24 countries, including Australia, and the findings are consistent throughout. That daughters of mothers who work outside the home are “more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time.”

And sons of working mothers are more likely to help with household chores and spend more time caring for the kids. “Growing up, what was being modeled for sons was the idea that you share the work at home,” McGinn says.

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The researchers wanted to find out whether growing up with a working mum influenced things like employment, earnings and allocation of household work.

“There’s a lot of parental guilt about having both parents working outside the home,” McGinn says. “But what this research says to us is that not only are you helping your family economically – and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love – but you’re also helping your kids. So I think for both mothers and for fathers, working both inside and outside the home gives your kids a signal that contributions at home and at work are equally valuable, for both men and women. In short, it’s good for your kids.”

More than 13,000 women and 18,000 men from 24 developed nations including Australia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, France, the US, UK, Poland and Japan were surveyed, answering questions relating to gender attitudes, home life and career paths.

Professor McGinn says, “It didn’t matter to us if she worked for a few months one year, or worked 60 hours per week during your whole childhood. We weren’t interested in whether your mom was an intense professional, but rather whether you had a role model who showed you that women work both inside and outside the home. We wanted to see how that played out.”

Do you believe your career and work ethic was influenced by your mother either working or being a stay-at-home mum?

(via Harvard Business School)

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