Daughters of working moms grow up to be just as happy as kids of stay-at-home moms

Working moms still experience guilt and criticism from the outside world for choosing to work than stay at home and raise their children full-time. “Am I sacrificing being a better parent for being a better worker?” they worry as they miss practices and recitals to meet deadlines. No one is immune to this nagging guilt. Even famous working mothers like tennis star Serena Williams have said they have felt the heartache of missing a child’s milestone for their job.

But for all you guilty working parents out there, research is on your side. There is new research published in Work, Employment and Society that can help assuage your worries that you are holding your children back with your career. In 2015, initial results of this study found that daughters of working mothers can perform better at their jobs than daughters of stay-at-home moms. Now, in the final version of Kathleen L McGinn and her colleagues’ study, the two surveys of more than 100,000 men and women across 29 countries have even more evidence: for daughters, not only does having a working mom improve your career, you will also end up just as happy as children of stay-at-home moms.

Daughters of working moms more likely to be employed and earn more

Daughters, not sons, have their careers influenced by having a working mom, the researchers found. Compared with daughters of full-time stay-at-home moms, daughters who grew up with a working mom were 1.21 times more likely to be employed, 1.29 times more likely to manage others, and they spent 44 more minutes at their jobs, even after controlling for gender attitudes. They also were more likely to earn more money. Among the American mothers, working daughters of employed mothers ended up earning an average of $1,880 more than daughters of stay-at-home moms. They were also able to have satisfying lives outside of work. Having a stay-at-home mom or a working mom made no difference in self-reported overall happiness for men or women.

What’s causing this career boost for daughters? It may help daughters to see what they can become through working role models. “Associations between maternal employment and daughters’ employment outcomes were stronger for women with children at home, suggesting daughters tap into behavioral examples garnered by observing their own mothers,” the study concluded.

Sons may not have their careers influenced by their moms, but a working mom influenced how they helped out at home. Sons were more likely to have an egalitarian gender attitude when they had a working mom role model. Sons of working moms were more likely to pitch in with raising their families. They spent an extra 50 minutes each week caring for family members, compared with sons of stay-at-home moms.

The study is good news for those of us who worry about the long-term effects our career choices have on our children.

“Women are socialized to believe mothers should stay home with their children, so when you separate from your kids every day for work, it can be painful,” McGuinn said about the findings. “As we gradually understand that our children aren’t suffering, I hope the guilt will go away.”