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The Kids Are All Right (So Stop the Mommy Guilt)

Every mom who works full time has been there. We’ve all felt it. Guilt. The guilt of working and not staying home with our children; the guilt of thinking we don’t spend enough time with our children and because of that, they will suffer some sort of horrible fate; and the guilt of feeling like we’re not a “real” mom.

In nearly half of two-parent households, both Dad and Mom work full time, according to the Pew Research Center. That statistic doesn’t necessarily make it easier for Mom to drop her toddler off at day care or miss the middle-of-the-day school play. But evidence is building that having a working mom might benefit kids of both sexes long term.

In a new study by Harvard Business School, professor Kathleen McGinn researched 50,000 people in 25 countries and found that daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed in supervisory roles and earn higher incomes. Sons of working moms spent more time helping with child care and housework.

That’s not to say that children don’t also benefit when they spend more time with their parents. They do. But we make trade-offs in how we spend our time, and working moms everywhere can cut themselves some slack.
So why do we (or at least I) still seem to envision June Cleaver as the perfect mom? I can honestly say that I think I am a better mom because I work. I lack patience. I wouldn’t be good at planning activities for my boys (I have two) all day every day. Does that make me a bad mom? No. I just do things differently than June Cleaver. That doesn’t make me wrong. And it doesn’t mean that my children suffer because of it. In fact, I think they are better off too.

I don’t have to work, but I appreciate a better lifestyle because I do. Plus, I spent a good portion of my life in school — grade school, undergraduate, post-graduate — and now I enjoy working to apply my education and contribute to supporting my family. Like most parents, no part of my education taught me how to raise or educate a child. I’m learning that as I go. Some days I think I’m pretty good at it. Other days, I know I’m not. But one thing is certain: My children are excelling beyond any of my expectations, even when I’m not with them — and probably especially when I’m not with them.

Since my boys were each four months old, they have been in a day-care program (we’ve always called it school) when I go to work. At first, I was terrified to leave them. How would they ever survive without me? I am their mother! I should be with them always; they are my responsibility. But after a pep talk from my mentor at work and some flexibility with my hours, I stressed less and now, over the years I’ve watched them grow and learn things I could never teach them. I read to them and review basics, but I don’t know how to properly educate them. I’ve come to realize that with some aspects of my boys’ lives (like education) mother doesn’t always know best — or everything.

I truly believe that when I give my children the opportunity to go to school or day care while I’m at work, I am giving them the gift of experience. They learn and grow there in ways I wouldn’t be able to foster. I know my limits.

I know some may say that I’m letting other people raise my children since I’m not with them all the time and that’s just not true. I am raising them. I am working hard to teach them morals, values and manners. I work tirelessly on what it means to be a gentleman. But I need help from others who are better able to teach my children their letters and numbers and how to stand in line quietly without hitting their friends.

Maybe my children spend more time away from me than those that have a stay-at-home mom, but you know what, my children are thriving. Beyond basic education, my kids learn independence, how to be social and how to work in a group. They like going to school, and they like being with me. I think they have a good balance. I am arming them with the tools to be the best they can be while I pursue my career to be the best I can be. We all benefit, and we’re all happier and better because I choose to work.