Being a working mother is no cakewalk. The multitasking and juggling required to raise children — with or without a partner — while also maintaining a career can be daunting at times. But perhaps one of the most challenging aspects for some women is their guilt when others criticize them for working instead of devoting themselves full-time to their children.
That criticism even comes from other women, who may hint that a nanny is the "real parent" or that moms should be at home while their children are young.
However, working moms may feel better about their choices when looking at Harvard Business School and Mount Holyoke College research, which shows that when women work, their daughters are likely to have jobs, hold supervisory duties, and earn bigger paychecks than those whose moms stayed at home.
In addition, the sons of working moms are more likely to become men that pitch in with household chores and help with caring for family members.
Courtney Henderson, 37, of Auburn, Alabama, says that when she was growing up, her father's paycheck could support the family, but her mother chose to work. Her mother worked as a home interior consultant, "and I remember that she really liked what she did."
As a technology recruiter, Henderson says she didn't think of the influence her mom's work had on her — until she had a young daughter of her own.
"That's when I began to think that I just wasn't happy doing what I was doing and really wanted to follow my passion," she says. She's now launched "Make Room LLC," a luxury home organizing business.
The previous research also shows that women raised by working moms who grow up to be working moms spend more time with their children.
"I never felt when my mom worked that I was missing out on something," Henderson says. "My dad was super supportive of her — he believed that it was good for her mental health that she had something of her own."
According to the U.S. Census, working moms now account for 32% of all employed women, with about 23.5 million working women with children being mothers of children under 18. Almost two-thirds of these women work full time all year.
Still, working women appear to make some adjustments in their careers after they have children. For example, women may not work as much when their children are younger. According to Census information, 62% of women with pre-school children are employed. However, women with older children — age 6 to 17 — work more often. For those women, the numbers jump to 75%.
"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 work are equally valuable, for both men and women. In short, it's good for your kids," says Kathleen L. McGinn, the Cahners-Rabb professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who helped conduct the study.