Welcome to Parent Hub

Mounting evidence of advantages for children of working mothers

Posted on 09 September 2015

We’ve all had to make the agonizing decision whether to return to work after maternity leave or stay at home to look after the children. Whatever choice we make it’s common to question whether it’s the right one for our children.

Such doubts are often fed by stories in the news.  While there has been much noise in recent years on the benefits of staying at home, we hear very little about the long term impact of working mothers on their children.

New research has emerged from Harvard Business School that looked at this issue.  The findings should provide parents with comfort that, no matter which decision they make there are benefits to both arrangements.

The study collected data from 24 countries and found that women raised by a mother who worked outside the home were more likely themselves to have a job, hold supervisory responsibility in the workplace and earn higher wages than those women raised by a mother who stayed at home. 

Being a working mum can have a positive impact on sons too.  Working mothers are more likely to have the expectation that all family members will help with household chores.  (I gladly shared this news with my son while “forcing” him to empty the dishwasher. His response suggests he’s someway off appreciating this benefit.)

The decision to return to work or not will be based on factors personal to your family. What I like about this research is that it blows the doors off the myth that children of working parents suffer. In doing so it shows there are benefits to either decision.

Does this mean that working mothers can stop feeling guilty about working outside the home and start celebrating the positive impact it has on our children?  Yes and no. Our experience of being a working parent will be heavily impacted by the support we receive from our employer. With more support from employers the work/life balance can be a more enjoyable rather than a stressful experience.

Here are the top 3 policies through which employers and the government can support working parents.

Provide affordable childcare

Post election the government’s promise to make childcare more affordable through Tax Free Childcare is starting to sound hollow. Research suggests that families could be £1,300 worse off if they make the wrong choice when deciding whether to leave the existing Child Care Voucher scheme.

The rules are complicated and many parents say they are finding it difficult to work out which is the best option for their family.  

Flexible working

Working outside 9 to 5 hours enables many parents to attend to both home and work commitments, doing the school run, ferrying children to after-school clubs or attending events such as their child’s class assembly.  

With the right mobile technology you can work anywhere, anytime. You can easily zap an email from your phone whilst watching your child play netball or finishing work in the evening in order to care for your child. Working flexible hours is not only possible but essential for organizations that do business with other countries, requiring some staff to work outside traditional UK office hours.

Shared Parental Leave

Great in principle but the jury’s out on whether this policy will put an end to mothers shouldering the burden of having to choose between a career and a family.

Many parents suspect that take up will be poor until the perception is challenged that Shared Parental leave will be career suicide for many men. Employers are unlikely to value work done in the home as much as work outside the home until both parents share join responsibility for childcare.

What kind of support should you ask for yourself?

It’s always best to make your own case to your line manager about changes which could help make the work-life juggle easier.  These could be compressed hours, job-share or flex working.  Forward thinking employers tend to go beyond government policy offering innovative solutions to keep working parents in their business.  Talk with your HR team today to find out what these are.