Working Moms' Impact on Kids

Working Moms’ Impact on Kids

A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that 60 percent of Americans believe children are better off when a parent is at home, and only 21 percent of adults say the trend of more mothers of young children working outside the home has been good for society.

Therein lies the paradox of our time: While a majority of Americans believe that children fare better when their mothers stay home full-time, the majority of American moms work.

But take heart, working moms: Science is on our side. Studies show mothers, children, and marriages benefit when moms work and earn.

A recent Harvard study of 50,000 adults from 25 countries found growing up with a working mother improves future prospects, especially for adult daughters of mothers who worked outside the home before their daughters were 14 years old. In these families, daughters grow up to earn more, and sons grow into men who spend more time on child and home care. Highlights from the study include:

  • Daughters of working moms completed more years of education
  • Sons of working mothers spend more time on child care and housework
  • Daughters were more likely to be employed in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes

In this episode, I interview Kathleen McGinn, the Harvard Business School professor behind the working mom study. McGinn notes in a 2015 Harvard Business School website article that there is a lot of parental guilt about having two parents work outside the home.

“What this research says to us is that not only are you helping your family economically—and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love—but you’re also helping your kids,” says McGinn. “So I think for both mothers and for fathers, working both inside and outside the home gives your kids a signal that contributions at home and at work are equally valuable, for both men and women. In short, it’s good for your kids.”

On this podcast episode, she shares an anecdote about an event attended by high performing working mothers and their young-adult children. She asked the kids: Given your experiences as a child of a working mom, what advice would you give her today? “To a person, each one of the adult kids said, ‘Chill out! I’m doing great!’”

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Articles by Emma Johnson

About the Series


While a majority of Americans believe that children fare better when their mothers stay home full-time, most American moms work – and research suggests having a working mom benefits children. Still, moms often experience guilt when choosing a career and motherhood. The Working Moms Mean Business series dives into the research, insights and success stories of this complex issue.