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Stop the guilt: kids with working parents experience significant benefits

by Liz Marchant

Working parents know the guilt that comes with missing out on events at school, working too late to put the kids to bed, or not being able to pick their children up in the afternoons.

It’s easy for parents to beat themselves up over the things they aren’t doing. However, many working parents don’t realise they could actually be doing their children a huge favour.

There are significant benefits for children who have working parents, in both the long and short term.

A Harvard Business School study found that the children of working mothers tend to be more successful professionally, holding more management positions and earning more money than the children of mothers who don’t work.[1]

Some of the greatest benefits to children come from the example set for them by their working mothers. For example, men whose mothers work are more likely to contribute to household chores. Children gain increased flexibility to deal with changing situations and environments, and develop resilience to cope with situations without needing parental handholding.

Children from families where both parents work tend to gain a better understanding of finances and economics and understanding the need to work to earn a living, making them more likely to take personal responsibility for their livelihood.

At the same time, working parents understand that their children crave quality time with them. So, they’re more likely to carve out that time when they can. According to The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Australian parents rank first (of 21 countries) for ‘parental time with children’.

Children with working parents also tend to be more independent and better able to plan in advance. These skills set them up for a more successful adult life in which they’re well aware that no one else is going to take responsibility for them and, if they want something done, they’ll need to organise it themselves.

It’s important to note that adult happiness isn’t related to whether a child’s mother worked outside the home or not. So, for all the mothers worried that they’re permanently damaging their children by working, you can stop worrying! You’re more likely to be doing your child good by setting a strong example of personal accountability and capability.

And, if you’re one of the many women who gets personal fulfilment from working, that also has knock-on effects for your children. That fulfilment is likely to spill over into your personal life, making you a happier, more positive mother and, potentially, contributing to stronger relationships with your children and your significant other.

It’s time to banish the mother guilt that so many of us feel and embrace the fact that we’re contributing to our children’s development even when we’re at work.

[1] http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/kids-benefit-from-having-a-working-mom