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Katherine Lewis

News Flash: Working Moms' Kids Turn Out Okay

By August 3, 2010

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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!

Photo credit: Getty Images

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August 3, 2010 at 9:24 am
(1) Jennifer White says:

Well said!

I think that parents need to make the choice that makes sense for their family. That sensible choice can be completely opposite from the family next door.

In the end, for families who make the decision of how and when to work with all the members welfare in mind, I think the playing field for children is pretty gosh-darn level. Sure there are differences, but in the grand scheme of things – kids of loving families can do quite well, regardless of the parents’ work status.

August 3, 2010 at 10:56 pm
(2) Pam says:

My son was in daycare from 6 weeks and has turned out to be an amazing person, intellectually and emotionally. Definitely depends on the child care and support you have, but also a team effort on the part of both parents.

August 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm
(3) AS says:

Thank you! It seems that it is hard for us as moms to stop comparing against other moms and stop judging each other for our decisions. Hopefully your articles will remind us to stop judging each other for at least a short time :)

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