Are Working Moms Better Moms?

Best Environment?

If you choose to, or must, go out into the workforce, you may be suffering pangs of guilt over ending your status as a SAHM: a stay at home mother. Most people think that moms who stay at home are giving their children the best possible environment, since they are devoting their time and energies to their offspring. That means that making the change comes with lots of angst. But here's a switch: some sociologists think that the very American concept of a stay at home mom might just represent the worst parenting arrangement of all.

Less Affectionate

Sociologists base their surprising belief on the results of cross-cultural studies which suggest that the more time a mother spends alone with her children, the less affectionate her mothering tends to be. This seems counterintuitive. Most of us imagine that an extended maternal presence fosters a deeper, more affectionate bond between mother and child.

The fact is, however, that when a mother spends most of her time in mothering, she is ignoring her own personal self-growth and image. This has a deleterious effect on her mothering. A woman who has fulfilling work, and has a warm and interesting social life outside of the home, has more to give to her children. Modern women have a need for intellectual stimulus, financial independence, and a social circle. If a woman should give up all of these ideals, she will be left with a feeling of incompleteness and this translates as a lack of warmth to her children.

Providing A Role Model

It is also true that a working mom provides an important role model for her daughters and sons. Her work suggests to her children that women, too, deserve to have work, a separate identity, family, and love. The daughter of a working mother learns that it's okay to pursue a sense of self and that guilt has no place in this pursuit. Her sons learn that women and men have similar talents and needs; they learn to be feminists and to love and respect women as individuals, rather than seeing them as those who serve them by keeping house and mothering their children. They learn not to count on always having a woman to fulfill their personal needs and this fosters their own ability to care for themselves, their homes, and their children, as single men and in their married relationships.

When a mother returns to the workforce, a father who has always relied on his partner to provide a clean and well-managed household may be thrust into the role of equality. He may have to take on some of the responsibilities of parenting and housework. Many men have not been raised to take on such a role and this may be a difficult transition for both husband and wife. But the fact is that children always benefit from parenting that arrives in equal measure from both their parents.