WAIT? Being A Working Mom Might Help My Kids? Staying At Home Might ALSO Help My Kids?

Not that it’s not obvious already, but having lived both sides of the Mommy Wars, I can tell you this with complete confidence: these “wars” are all a media-generated load of crap.

To say I went back to work four months ago is a little disingenuous. In the five years since my first daughter was born, I’ve done a number of things, from stints as “just” a stay-at-home mom to running my own small business, managing a midwife’s office, and working as a freelancer. But four months ago, I went back to full-time out-of-the-home work for the first time since becoming a parent.

Not that it’s not obvious already, but having lived both sides of the Mommy Wars, I can tell you this with complete confidence: these “wars” are all a media-generated load of crap.

A new study about working mothers is making the rounds this weekend. Working with 50,000 adults in 25 countries, researchers from Harvard Business School found that there are advantages for children whose mothers work outside of the home. Daughters of working moms spent more years in higher education and saw more professional success (higher salaries, more likely to hold leadership positions), while sons were more likely to spend time on domestic tasks such as childcare and housework (you’re welcome, future spouses).

Importantly, The Upshot also noted that this is not to say that children do not also benefit when their parents spend more time with them — they do. But we make trade-offs in how we spend our time, and research shows that children of working parents also accrue benefits.

Did you hear that?

Working as a stay-at-home mom benefits your kids. Working out of the home benefits your kids. In other words: you’re doing it right. Yes, you. All of you.

Did you hear that?

Going back to full-time work this year was a big decision for our family. Since leaving the full-time workforce in 2010, I’d been the primary caregiver for our children. I loved being at home full-time with the girls, experiencing their milestones firsthand, laughing and playing with them, and immersing them in our family’s values.

At the same time, being at home required a lot of generous favors from friends and family members, heaps of creative problem-solving, and an embarrassing amount of TV time to fulfill the part-time professional responsibilities I’d chosen to take on. Not to mention the occasional need to defend my choices as the progressive feminist choices that they were.

Because obviously there’s only one right way to be a feminist.

Now that I’m “back” at work, I am confronted with Mom Guilt for not being there to care for them every day. Some days, the girls beg to stay home and I second-guess my decision to allow a stranger to care for them for so many hours of every day. Yet every morning, despite whatever they said on the ride there, they bolt from the car and are inside playing with the other children before I even get a chance to kiss them goodbye. Usually, I’m lucky to get a distracted wave.

In the end, we are all better off for the choices I’ve made. We have our good days and our bad days, like always, but my move from one side of the Mommy Divide to the other has been surprisingly smooth. I am professionally fulfilled, our family finances are a little more forgiving, and although they don’t get to spend all of their waking hours with me anymore, my kids are thriving — and very proud of their mama.

I’ll never regret the years I spent at home with my children, but I am comforted knowing that in all the choices I’ve made about my life as a working parent, they’ve all been right.

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