Usually, researchers on working moms produce studies indicting our child care choices or health of our children. So I was thrilled to read about the latest report on working mothers from a team led by Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a researcher at Columbia University's Teachers College, based on years of data on more than 1,000 children. The team, basically, concluded that working moms' kids turn out just fine -- there's no need for guilt just because you are employed outside the home.
Babies whose mothers worked full time exhibited slightly lower cognitive abilities, but that deficit was offset by working moms' higher income, superior child care and greater responsiveness toward their children than stay-at-home moms, according to a Washington Post article on the study. The children of part-time working moms and of women who went back to work after their infants turned one showed no negative effects. (I've requested a copy of the study, and will write about the details when I receive it.)
But my relief at this research was tempered by the angry debate over the study's findings, such as in comments to Babble.com's Strollerderby blog, between working and SAHMs disparaging each others' work and parenting choices. Can we all please drop the Mommy Wars? Let's treat each other with respect, even in the anonymous comments to a blog post.
A single finding by researchers can't translate into an indictment of all people in that demographic category. I would urge my sister working moms to refrain from gloating that somehow we're all more sensitive and responsive to our children than all stay-at-home moms simply because of this result. Similarly, don't rush out to find a part-time job because you worry that working full time will make your kids stupid. Large scale studies necessarily lump together families at the extremes and average out their differences. Your individual circumstances -- such as a secure parental attachment, stable home life and quality child care -- will be the biggest factor in your child's well-being.
What do you think of this latest study? Please share your stories and thoughts!
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