Does this major new study on working mums really prove anything?
Did you hear a cheer yesterday? It might have come from the working mums of Australia. A new study has revealed that daughters of working mothers are better educated and earn more money than daughters of stay-at-home mums. Not only that, sons of working mothers spend more time looking after children and doing housework.
Phew. Exhausted working mums can finally stop feeling guilty and start feeling good about themselves, right? And stay-at-home mums will have something new to chat about while sitting around, sipping their lattes.
Although if stay-at-home mums did take a break from providing a secure, nurturing environment for their children, they might be talking about another recent research finding. As reported in newspapers over the weekend, kids who spend more than 20 hours a week in childcare before the age of three are more likely to have health and behavioural problems later on. So take that, working mums!
Oh yes. The mummy wars aren’t going to run out of ammunition anytime soon.
It seems like every few days there’s a report in the media that makes us feel like we’ve been getting this whole parenting business right, or getting it all horribly wrong. I tend to zoom in on the ones that tell me I’ve been getting it right, and for a little while I get to feel self-satisfied. Then I see a report that tells me I’ve been getting it wrong, and I skip over it quickly, telling myself that the researchers were biased or their methods were dodgy.
We all want to feel like we've done the right thing by our kids. We care because our kids are so important to us. But trying to keep up with all these research findings - and to work out which ones really matter - is tiring. It's often depressing. It's also really divisive.
Take this latest study about working mums. Sure, it involves 50,000 adults from 25 countries, but are the results really that astounding? For example, it found that 69 per cent of women who grew up with a working mother were employed and 22 per cent were supervisors. Among women who grew up with a stay-at-home mum, 66 per cent were employed and 18 per cent were supervisors. Meh.
As for sons of working mothers, they spend, on average, an extra two minutes a day doing housework. Meh, again.
Deciding whether to stay at home or to go back to work after having a baby is a big decision and a very personal one. You might choose to go back to work because you feel as though staying at home with a baby is turning your brain to mush and you're losing your identity. That's fine. You might choose to stay home because the mere thought of leaving your child with someone else every day makes tears well up in your eyes. That's fine too. Or, because of finances, you might have no choice in the matter.
No matter what your situation is, you don't need researchers heaping guilt on you and making you question whether your decision is screwing up your child for life. Because it's not. Because so many factors influence how a child turns out. Because most kids turn out okay. Great, even.
Here's a video about the study into working mothers. Post continues after the video.
Sure, I understand that researchers need to come up with "findings" to justify their grant money. And the media need "findings" to fill up all that empty space. But all too often it just ends up as relentless mummy shaming. (Daddy shaming. Why isn't that a thing?)
My mum was a stay-at-home mum, as were many women of her generation. And yet, somehow, my mum's five daughters grew up to become a trade unionist, two doctors, a project manager and a magazine editor. She didn't need to go out to work to instill career ambition in us. She just did it. That's because even though she was at home all the time, she never taught us that a woman's place is in the home. It's not just about what you do as a parent, it's about what you say. That's what studies like this one about working mums fail to take into account.
It's simplistic to suggest girls grow up to be just like their mothers. Otherwise, the second half of last century wouldn't have seen such massive change in women's lives.
The only research that really matters is what we can see going on in our own family, how our own children are turning out. And if the results are looking promising, then relax.
Do you think studies like this are useful, or are they just egging on the mummy-wars?
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