Working mothers are happier than stay-at-home mums – but earn less than childless women

17 Feb

Working mothers are happier than stay-at-home mums (pic credit: istockphoto.com)

Working mothers are happier than mums who stay at home, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. But going back to work after having children comes at a price, with research from the University of New Mexico revealing that mothers earn up to 14% less than their childless female colleagues.

The study Mothers’ Part-Time Employment: Associations With Mother and Family Well-Beingby Cheryl Buehler and Marion O’Brien from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, found that “mothers employed part time had fewer depressive symptoms during the infancy and pre-school years and better self-reported health at most time points than did non-employed mothers”. In other words, a healthy balance of work and family life makes mothers feel happier.

This excellent article from The Conversation, Work Keeps Mums Happy and Children Well-Adjusted, provides a balanced and insightful commentary on how mothers who work are more fulfilled – and counters the old-fashioned arguments that children of working mothers are somehow deprived. Drawing on John Bowlby’s attachment theory, it explains that children enjoy spending quality time with their parents, and feel happy and confident to explore the world and discover themselves as long as there is a ‘secure base’ to return to.

However, the downside of mothers going back to work is that they are likely to earn between 7% and 14% less than their female colleagues who don’t have children. This article in Forbes, Why Working Mothers Make Us Angry, highlights the uncomfortable truth that highly educated, accomplished women are subject to the ‘Motherhood Penalty‘, because often high-flying jobs in major corporations just aren’t compatible with family life. Or, bosses who employ mothers make the assumption that they will be unreliable, unproductive, and forever taking time off to care for a sick child.

So how is it that all the working mothers I know are organised and efficient at home and in the office, work extremely hard, and yet still manage to turn up to assemblies, sports days and performances? I guess it’s a matter of where you place your priorities.

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