Mounting Evidence of Advantages for Children of Working Mothers

A study of adults in 25 countries showed that having a working mother had some economic, educational and social benefits for children of both sexes.

Comments: 181

  1. No, I don't worry at all that my kids won't turn out as well because I am working. Instead, I worry that if I have to spend all my time working, I won't have enough time to enjoy their company, and they will be grown up and gone before I know it.

  2. Agree. They'll be FINE. But I miss my kid during the busy workweek.

  3. That's what happened to me.

  4. And that is something about which you should definitely be concerned. It's gone before so fast.

  5. Yes, what is best for the family is best for the child...be it working parents or a stay at home parent. I grew up with a SAHM and had a wonderful childhood. I went on to complete my education and have a successful career and am a working mom with a very happy toddler. Hopefully studies like this will not only help diffuse the "wars", but also provide a good argument for maternity leave policies to help keep mothers who either wish (or need) in the work force upon having their children.

  6. My mother loved working and worked my whole life. I stayed at home after my first child was born. Neither of us had any regrets and I think this is more important than anything else.

  7. So, this study is too narrowly focused?
    Home with Mom: The Effects of Stay-at-Home Parents on Children's Long-Run Educational Outcomes

    Eric Bettinger, Torbjørn Hægeland & Mari Rege
    Journal of Labor Economics, July 2014, Pages 443-467

    Abstract:
    In 1998 the Norwegian government introduced a program that increased parents' incentives to stay home with children under the age of 3. Many eligible children had older siblings, and we investigate how this program affected the long-run educational outcomes of the older siblings. Using comprehensive administrative data, we estimate a difference-in-differences model that exploits differences in older siblings' exposures to the program. We find a significant positive treatment effect on older siblings' tenth-grade GPA, and this effect seems to be largely driven by mother's (sic) reduced labor force participation and not by changes in family income or father's labor force participation.

  8. I think it's important to make a distinction between "staying home" with infants, toddlers and preschoolers vs staying home *forever*...

    I do believe that children under 3 benefit from less institutional time/time with caregivers other than family and more time with mom.

    I would love to see a cultural shift that makes it easier for working moms to on-ramp and off-ramp for 3-5 year sabbaticals to spend time with their small children.

  9. As a mother of twins, I believe any loving caregiver is fine for an infant. Whether it's a parent or an employee is irrelevant. It's about the quality of care. Personally, I felt it was more important to spend time with my children as they began to learn language and started socializing outside of the home and in school.

  10. And working DADS as well.

  11. Our child was one of those selected at birth for a longitudinal study
    http://www.wcwonline.org/Active-Projects/work-families-and-children
    He dropped out of the study in his mid elementary school years. Now as a teacher himself, he would be interested in knowing the results of the study of child development outcomes of child care in early pre school and school years.

  12. The mommy wars seem unlikely to end. They're manifestations of insecurity. It seems to be the rare woman who feels her choice is absolutely the right choice.

    My own mother was one of those rare women. She went back to work when I entered first grade. This was the early 1960s. She had loved being a secretary, and her only regret (and mine) was that the work structure was totally inflexible for working moms. Instead of getting a permanent position, she had to settle for long-term temping so she could take summers off. Thus she earned less and had no pension despite many years of steady work. Has anything really changed? Yes, US society offers marginally better child care options now, but not much better for the working class.

  13. Well, i think anyone who structures their career in order to take summers off is going to find that such a choice has a negative long-range effect on earnings and nest egg. And taking every summer off is not years of sready work, it is years of sporadic work.

    Anyone will pay the price for that lifestyle choice. Reproductive status has nothing to do with it.

  14. Shannon: Do not confuse writing style with gender discrimination. If the New York Times still follows the general writing style rules of the Associated Press Style Book as well as its own style book, only medical doctors are given the title Dr. Those with doctorates are given the title Mr., Ms., or Mrs.

  15. Dentists? PhD psychologists? Veterinarians? Is there an ax to grind here?

  16. Shanna's legitimate criticism of the Times mysteriously disappears, but JRW's defense remains? Nice. Perhaps its time for someone to do a study on this. Maybe I'll do it.

  17. I grew up as the daughter of a single working mother. Working was never a question -- we needed the income -- but it's blindingly obvious to me in retrospect that it was a net positive. I gained independence and resourcefulness by letting myself in after school and being responsible for my own homework and amusement. When I went to her workplace, it was mind-blowing (as a self-centered kid) to see how many people looked up to my mom and benefited from her work. She is a women's health nurse practitioner, and whenever I'd stop by the office I'd be regaled with stories about how wonderful she was at helping women through their pregnancies. I was so proud of her for being so good at her job. There were certainly days when I whined about how ALL the other mothers came to my soccer games (false), and I know that it was a knife through my mom's heart when I wanted her to be there for activities and she couldn't. But it helped me learn that I was not the center of the universe, and it's been good for my mom too, especially once I left home. Now I'm a college professor and I certainly plan to keep working as my husband and I start our family. I'm glad the studies are backing up what has long been obvious to those of us who grew up with working moms -- that means that today's working moms can give up all their guilt, right? :-)

  18. Say what you want, but your kids will do what you do.

  19. As readers have noted in their own pasts, children with working moms learn independence and resilience. These traits can be fostered in all children but are much more likely to be "required" learning if your mother works. My mother worked, as did I. I see it as a great luxury for mothers who wish it to "stay home" with their children. I have also seen that these children, while having much wonderful attention lavished upon them, are often not as flexible nor as resilient---they do not have to be. Mothers should stay home because they want to do so, not because of a misguided notion that well-chosen childcare is harmful.

  20. I agree with the comment that these "wars" are born of insecurity. Aside from, on one hand, mothers who absolutely have to work to provide basic food and shelter, and, on the other hand, mothers of extraordinary special needs children who require 'round the clock care and advocacy, it is largely a "choice." For many, there's an "obvious choice" due to their circumstances, but for others, the choice is much more difficult, and everything in between. Both paths require enormous sacrifice. Staying home requires a woman to become a financial dependent (and experience the consequences thereof on her marriage, even if that only means more pressure on dad to be sole breadwinner), lose some self-identity, and forego financial resources, to name a few. Working means always longing for more of the seemingly-fleeting time with the kids, being always harried trying to juggle all the tasks of motherhood while also answering to a boss and giving time to work, having less time to give to yourself and your husband, and dealing with the morass that is childcare. No wonder we're all a little uneasy with our choices - we've all given up a lot.

    I'm a working mom, but after nearly 8 years of motherhood and casual observation, I have neither envy nor pity for those who take a different path.

    I will, however, teach my daughter that she needs to be able to support, not just herself, but also a family if she wants to have one. Maybe our lessons like that explain the statistics in the study?

  21. How about we add to the discussion that kids are different, that some need/benefit from a parental presence full time in the home longer or at different times than others?

    My younger sister even today talks about her wish, as a teenager, that my working mother would have been more available for her. I was never bothered. My daughter is on the autism spectrum, and that changed my own plans to work full time once she was in kindergarten; we ended up homeschooling and she is now as resilient and independent as I could possibly have helped her become. She will be off to college this August. Could she have been forced into independence earlier had I continued to work full time? Yes -- but at the cost of increased anxiety, a loss of self confidence, and increased isolation.

    It may be quite possible that a number of women (sometimes men) choose to parent full time because their children require it for an extended time, and that this inborn slower timetable to independence skews collected data.

  22. Many mothers who do not work have disabled/delayed/chronically ill children, an ill parent or are disabled themselves. My guess is that probably 50% of stay at home mothers meet the above criteria and confound the validity of the findings. I have yet to see a study comparing working mothers with stay-at-home mothers that controls for these variables. Another issue is that income and educational attainment are not the only measures of wellbeing. A person in a rural area may live better than a city dweller on less income and not have as much education, yet read and be engaged with learning. Certain subcultures do very well with stay-at-home mothers, such as the Amish or the traditional Mennonites. With one income and no higher education, they often attain a decent standard of living with more family time than most American families.

  23. We must have read different articles. This article also discussed non-economic effects, such as depression. Plus, your guess of 50% nearly triples the number of disabled children reported by the 2010 census.

  24. Some of what people claim is "a need for income" is really a need for status or possessions like fancy cars, big houses, "the right neighborhood", an exclusive school district, fancy vacations, etc.

    People are often not honest about this, because they don't want to see themselves as materialistic, or admit they are choosing the upscale SUV over time with their children.

    People will justify nearly everything materialistic they choose this way -- I recall one parent I knew who claimed they "HAD to buy the BMW" because it was the only car with extra safety features that would really keep their precious children safe. Of course, that meant the rest of us parents who drove Toyotas and Fords were monsters willing to let our kids die in a fiery car crash....didn't it?

  25. Many countries have governmental policies and programs assisting parents that the US lacks, such as extended paid maternity leave, preservation of the mother's job during her maternity leave, and better options for childcare. It seems the US prefers to spend tens of billions of dollars a year on incarcerating individuals, instead of investing just a small percentage of that on programs and services to assist parents raising children.

    Instead of making judgments about parents who work or don't work outside of the home, we ought to be investing in programs and services that benefit all children.

  26. Well said! What I'd like to know...who in our government is actually working on these types of programs? Which are the best advocacy groups to support in this cause?

  27. Amen. Too many Americans are obsessed and incensed at the idea that they might pay for something that benefits someone else. The attitude is that you should pay your own way for your personal choice to have children. The investing in society concept reeks of socialistic redistribution. When I was 8 months pregnant a childless female co worker told me she resented that i get 3 months off paid and everyone takes up my slack. I told her she'll be happy when my kids are working to support her social security payments!

  28. Well extended paid maternity leave and preservations of the mothers job are major burdens for small businesses. Just one reason Europe has been stagnant and will continue to be stagnant.

  29. Please. Let's ditch the term 'working mothers' and come up with a more salient descriptor. Mothers work. Period. Some receive salaries.

  30. Fathers work as well, right? I am for ditching the term "working mother" because it implies that a mother who works is doing something extra that most mothers do not do. It is not relevant in today's society where the majority of women with children have jobs.

  31. And those who receive salaries do more work than those who don't.

    I take care of my 3 children, bath them, play with them, help them with homework, take them to school, soccer, playdates and tuck them in at night. I take care of the household, I cook meal, pack lunches, scrub toilets, do the laundry, shop for the household, weed and prune the yard, take the car to the mechanic and deal with the plumber. I take care of my elderly parents. I clean for them, provide several meals a week, and drive them to places.

    I also happen to see dozens upon dozens of patients, full time, everyday, at work as a medical doctor. I am an Ivy trained physician. I'm there for my patients during their times of pain and crisis, 40-50 hours a week.

    The only help I hire is a house cleaner once a month. I don't have time to sleep or exercise or socialize, but I feel proud and satisfied that I'm fulfilling so many roles. I resent the idea that a SAHM work as much as I do.

  32. Let's be more precise and say that all mothers do tons of unpaid labor, but that some do most of that unpaid labor and then work outside of the home on top of that. Maybe we should call them working mothers X2, and then stay at home moms can call themselves working mothers.

  33. I absolutely loved that my mother was a working mother. I loved seeing that side of her focused on herself and her career. It not only was inspiring in my own life, but it also gave me a sense of peace that she would thrive even after my siblings and I left the nest.

  34. I absolutely loved that my mother stayed home. She was always there, she was a good teacher, as was her mother before her, and she made sure we stood on our own two feet. What mattered was that she had a lively and creative mind, which she shared with us. The experience for my siblings and I, who enjoyed the world through her eyes, was that time didn't fly.

  35. Sounds as if your mother was a single parent. Is that correct?

  36. I get so tired of the sad articles that desperately try to reassure working mothers that their children are "better off" than the children of mothers who stay home.

    Work if you want to, but don't imply that my children were at any disadvantage because I stayed home until the youngest started school. That's laughable.

    As for "mommy wars," maybe the constant need to downplay or subtly denigrate the value of SAHM in order to make working moms feel better about leaving their children with others for 8-10 hours a day is a big part of the problem.

    How about this: there are pros and cons to both scenarios and what matters most is that children are loved. Children who are loved are the ones who are "better off" so let's leave it at that.

  37. I'm glad you could afford to stay home, but not everyone can. Also, the study was about working mothers at any time before the child was 14, not just until they were 5 or 6.

  38. No, let's not leave it at that. The importance of articles like this, and the primary research the article reports on, is to help people make better, more informed choices. Writing that this is a "sad article" doesn't help anyone. You're happy with your decison to stay at home with your kids? Good! But for others trying to decide what works best for them, more information is better than less.

  39. Anyone can afford to stay home if they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices like I did. I could list the things we did without, but I'd run out of space.

    It's another lie I'm tired of--that only rich women can stay home. I and dozens of my friends managed to stay home on shoestring budgets because we were willing to forgo so many things we supposedly "needed" to survive.

    To say children of working mothers have "advantages" is to say that children of SAHM do not have advantages. Tell that to the sick, crying child with a runny nose and a drenched diaper being overlooked by a caregiver who simply cannot have the maternal instinct the child's mother has. Tell that to the child who is woken up because "naptime" is over, even though the child is not ready to wake up.

    If working mothers need to feel better about their choices, they shouldn't do it by proclaiming that their children are "advantaged" over the children of women who stay home.

  40. In the nineteenth century, how much quality time did "stay at home Moms" spend with each of their 10 children while also running a farm and household that included making all food and clothes from scratch and washing by hand?

  41. The entire family worked together on the farm, working to sustain themselves. Kids learned that in order to survive, they had to work hard and long hours. I don't know if it was "quality time" but the children learned from working alongside their parents.

  42. It's not the quality time, it is the fact that she was there and available.

  43. At least they were together. Far better than being in daycare. And working on a farm taught solid values regarding work ethic.

  44. I'm guessing kids absorb/imprint/model the behaviour they see - and a stay at home mom may model an unpaid future as a dependent - possibly with passive/aggressive overtones

    a father from Hong Kong who was building a business in Australia told me he was worried about his 12yo daughter as his wife was back in HK - he said she 'should know' he was working long hours at the office all for her

    I said - maybe not - she only sees you are not there - and may assume you don't care

    so - every night where you get home - ask her 'how was your day ?' - then stop, silent, don't say anything else, just listen - let her tell whatever's on her mind - and she will feel better/understood

    when I next saw him a few months later he took me out to an expensive restaurant with his daughter and said 'thanks - everything is so much better now'

  45. I'm a successful Ivy educated professional who loves loves loves her profession and the intellectual work out I get everyday, why should I be surpised this has a positive impact on my daughter as opposed to watching Mummy do the dishes and play with legos?

  46. Perhaps a toddler will not exactly understand that you love love love your profession, nor the intellectual workout you get everyday.

  47. This sounds arrogant. And its interesting this is not the first comment I've seen noting the "Ivy" education. Guess what a lot of non-ivies are just as good as if not better. Playing with legos has a lot of benefit to children FYI.

  48. I feel it's helpful if one parent can stay home, it doesn't have to be the mother. But I certainly felt neglected as a child and have subsequently had problems because both of my parents worked.

    I don't understand why people have children who don't actually have time for them.

  49. Huh. I had two gainfully employed parents and I never felt the least neglected. I had and have excellent relationships with both of my loving and attentive parents. Somehow I don't think employment is the issue here.

  50. I'm sorry that you feel that whatever issues you have are because both parents worked. But working does not mean that the parents don't have time for their kids. First, sometimes there is no choice. But put that aside or not, it is still not hard to spend "good" time with your child if you work. And just being home does not make one a better parent. I see "at home" Moms who spend more time shopping, at the coffee shop with friends, talking or texting on their phones than they do paying attention to their children. They fool themselves into thinking it is quality time. Even at home many are not actually concentrating their energy on the children.

  51. My brother and I are both successful adults. Our social worker mother worked full time at Red Cross from six weeks after I was born in 1948 until he was born in 1951. After that she worked part time at home coordinating volunteers who visited "shut-ins", debriefing them by phone. Then came some short term jobs. When he was in 1st grade and I in 4th she took a year-long full-time assignment. It ended in June. By October it was clear to us that she was not fun to be around when she wasn't working. We took direct action, strongly suggesting that everyone would be much happier if she went back to work. I think Daddy concurred in private; he was already doing a lot of chores anyway, as were we. When we looked back on this many years later all four of us agreed that we had benefitted.
    Caveats:
    1. Both parents were working stable-schedule 40 hour weeks most of the time. We had family dinners almost every night, during the week cooked mostly by whichever child got home first. Lots of other time was spent together.
    2. We could have lived a lower middle class life on one of their salaries. As it was there was money to be comfortable and stretch our experiences a bit.
    3. She did not like housework and was mildly disabled; we probably would have ended up doing a lot of it anyway. What we got was a deal where we did that and got allowances much larger than most of our peers so we did not have to do paper routes, baby sitting, etc. for spending money.
    4. This is an anecdote.

  52. I was in graduate school up to my son's birth, but was able to take five years off. Nonetheless, he started half day school at a cooperative nursery when he was three. He advanced socially, and I learned a great deal about tailoring resources to the individual. I returned to graduate school in engineering when he started first grade. In a few years, I began working for the state that has many holidays and counted my graduate teaching and gave me five years of seniority and three weeks of vacation. By junior high, I was a full-time consultant.

    My son learned self reliance -- how to get to viola lessons at the University, how to walk to my office for lunch and library in summer. He learned what we both did at work and earned good money doing equipment management part time, because there was no one at work to get the job done.

    We were able to send him to the technical university of his choice. He got a graduate scholarship and is now successful, focused, diligent employee.

    Being home all day, while he was playing or in school would not have improved his life. He did learn time management, scheduling and prioritization from watching me balance work and home tasks. If I'd stayed at home, with a minimal education and poor life and work skills, it is doubtless he would be as successful as he is today.

  53. Today, of course, if you allowed your son go alone to his viola lessons, or walk alone to your office, or the library, you could be arrested and charged with child endangerment. Our children are no longer allowed to learn the self-reliance you so proudly speak of.

  54. Spin, spin and more spin. The overwhelming evidence is that children and the household in general are significantly benefited by a stay home mom or dad. The article has an agenda, that being federally paid childcare. Today, economics force more and more women into the workplace. Yes, I said 'force', for when given the choice and not economic necessity, studies have found the stay at home vote is over 90%. The gender equality is a false argument, being but another excuse for getting paid childcare.

  55. Coolhunter writes: "The overwhelming evidence is that children and the household in general are significantly benefited by a stay home mom or dad."

    Source, please? This article at least cites a research study (albeit an unpublished one) that includes a meta-analysis of a large number of other studies.

    Where does your "overwhelming evidence" come from?

    I don't have kids, probably won't, and don't have a horse in this race. But it's annoying when someone presents opinions as if they were evidence.

  56. Probably spin. I felt forced to work and I think it benefitted my 2 children. But they missed having more time with me and I missed it too.

  57. Men are generally the ones who like stay at home moms (wives). Though stay at home moms don't do much for the kids, men benefit enormously.

  58. I don't think almost anyone makes decisions on what researchers say on this topic. People will do what they want and/or need to do, and will likely believe in the research that reinforces their decisions. Coolhunter, cite your sources, I'm curious to read the "overwhelming" evidence.

  59. I struggled with working mom guilt. I find this article helpful in assuaging that guilt.

  60. It is reports such as those discussed in this essay, which are the best arguments for forbidding the use of statistics in sociology. Sociological statistics are usually meaningless due to the difficulty of identifying and eliminating confounding factors.

  61. This study is meaningless unless you control for those working moms whose own mom, grandma, stepped into their place. This last generation of kids of working moms with grandma being mom have had it all. The benefit of a working role model mom, double income, and the stability and love and consistency of a family primary caregiver not serial childcare or nannies.

    If you are trying simply to trade off two incomes against the disbenefits of serial childcarers or nannies it is not clear. The strong will survive anywhere but if there are any issues and you throw in serial nannies of serial childcare in the absence of grandma, who lets face it is often moms mom, then I will be interested in the results.

    The next generation of kids are the ones to worry about when both parents HAVE to work and there is no one at home.

    As for the poor being more likely to work if mom works that would have to be because of mom getting more money than someone who lives on benefits!

  62. I think grandma has been at work for at least the last 25 years.

  63. This generation of kids born during the 90's is the greatest generation of kids I have seen. Most of their mothers work. Everybody is better off when their lives are being fulfilled.

  64. What on earth is wrong with parents drawing on their community to help care for a child? This is a classic, time-honored way of raising a child and if we are going back to it, we should be delighted, instead of calling it "serial carers" like some sort of twisted dating game is going on. It is natural for a child to have multiple caretakers, unnatural to only have one, his or her mother. It takes a village.

  65. 1. Why does the focus always seem to be on the mother? Do stay at home dads provide less value than a mother? Are we trying to discourage men from making similar decisions? I'm at the Executive Director level of my career, and most of the women at my level are the breadwinners in their families. Are we trying to set women back by continuing to focus the discussion on women, suggesting that choosing or being compelled to work is an unnatural decision for a woman that endangers or otherwise damages her child(ren)?
    2. People forget that the concept of a non-working stay at home mom is 20th Century and that, other than that short period in recent history, a preponderance of women worked in some form, even among the wealthy. So, it's actually the stay at home mom that, as implied in articles such as this, does nothing more than care for her child(ren) that is an anomaly.
    3. Another aspect that should be considered is that working outside the house provides more opportunity for parents to build perspective and mental acuity due to their interaction with and interdependence on others, which also benefits the child.

  66. Absolutely correct. Just forget about this whole idea of women staying home. Women must contribute economically to their families today and men must share household responsibilities. This is the social and cultural reality in which we live. We must all accept it and find realistic solutions to the issues of balancing work and family which are not gender based.

  67. Correlation does not necessarily imply causation. I do not think this study provides enough evidence to assert that a family with two working parents offers a better role model for sons or daughters. Other factors may be relevant, such as a grandparent's caregiving time or money, the affordability of housing in a given neighborhood or county, quality of public education, and the availability of part-time vs. full-time job opportunities for both parents.

    To understand if a household with two working parents creates a role model for sons or daughters, a qualitative research study with a survey and in-depth interviews is needed to assess a child's perceptions and attitudes of having two working parents vs. one working parent and whether these attitudes depend on where the child lives and if a grandparent is present or not.

  68. It might be difficult to study this phenomenon but I do believe that if a mother and daughter have a positive relationship, the mother's lifestyke will be a great influence on her daughter. We know that children learn life lessons better by example than by being told what to do. Why is it that we don't realize that applies to working mothers also. I didn't work until my youngest was three and my oldest nine. The youngest was the most independent and self sufficient of my three children because she had to be and that has continued into her forties.

  69. Parents need to create a family and work life that works for them but does anyone believe that this study would even be published if it concluded the opposite?
    Let's stop putting so much emphasis on 'studies' and just try to live satisfying, productive lives.

  70. My wife went back to work 6 months after my son was born. After we moved South a friend she'd gone to school with also moved down and moved two blocks from us. A hospital allowed them to split a full time Physical Therapy position with them alternating work weeks 3/2 days. When my wife worked my son was cared for and vice versa. It helped that we got along with the other family and have for nearly 40 years.
    The children went to museum, Carowinds, etc. It worked out well financially since we didn't have to pay for child care. As the aged they took care of themselves. My son was responsible and did his homework before going out or whatever. He spent very little time alone since he didn't get home until 4:00 and we got in by 6:00. Had there been discipline issues I as a self employed person could have arranged to be at home when he was. My son turned out very well and is a mature person who graduated with honors from school with degrees in Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering and Management.

  71. The title of this article is a bit inflated and I don't the case presented lives up to it. I'm still trying to understand how the unpublished Harvard study "controlled for the demographic factors" when researching the impact of working mothers on their family/children. The article successfully presents an argument but unfortunately not a well-rounded one in my view.

  72. Well you likely don't have much of a background in statistics I'm guessing. There are computer programs that can control for these things at the click of a button.

  73. Coming next. A study that refutes this study; except for those children who need to eat. The only question is which ivory tower Ivy League institution it will come from.

  74. Here we go again. The NTY runs yet another article that is trying to convey the idea that one size fits all situations. Even the picture is of a woman who is young and has a white collar job.

    Reality check: There are mothers of young children who are in their late 30s, 40s and even 50s, and those who are lucky enough to be employed, are not necessarily employed in jobs that do more than help put food on the table. I volunteer to teach Junior Achievement at my son’s elementary school, and the JA classes start in kindergarten. I teach enrichment programs because my position at a newspaper was eliminated. I asked the kids what their parents did for a living and what they wanted to do when they grow up. I was humbled by the responses. Some kids’ parents worked in an office, hospital, or school, but some kids’ parents drove a taxi, cleaned houses, worked as a nanny, and worked at McDonald’s. One boy’s father was in jail (for embezzlement) and his mother worked as a teacher’s assistant.

    Cite all the statistics you wish to make your point, but please get out the ivory tower of the NYT and talk to real people. In many cases, the economic benefits of having two working parents just amounts to having a roof over their heads and putting food on the table. Also, the minimum wage in the U.S. is significantly lower than it is in other countries. While the taxes are higher, people have other benefits such as universal health care and child care. These make a big difference.

  75. MetroJournalist: you wrote: "In many cases, the economic benefits of having two working parents just amounts to having a roof over their heads and putting food on the table." I think that's a HUGE benefit. Not being homeless or hungry. It was one of the main reasons I worked -- to survive as a single parent. But I agree that we need a much higher minimum wage, and much better support and assistance for all parents, starting with paid leave from work and good affordable accessible child care.

  76. Work outside the home is more valued than work inside the home. Therefore, women who work outside the home have a higher status by society's standards than do women who stay home. Women are more likely to believe that if they can hold their own and receive a paycheck, their contribution is as great as the man's. Her opinions are as valid and decisions are shared. Also, if the relationship ends, she can still support herself and her kids. That sort of role modeling is crucial to raising independent, self-sustaining, helpful children.

  77. Who's standards, exactly? I am a physician who works with critically ill patients in the hospital, one of the most mentally demanding jobs that I know of. My wife, who was a nurse by trade, now stays at home, raising our daughter and our other future children. In my eyes, my wife's work at home is as important, if not more important, than my own. She knows that I feel this way. How my children are raised, having their mother with them, being able to be in a loving, rich environment, and also having their mother be an intelligent woman is more important to me than bringing home money. Raising children and guiding them to be good, productive adults is far more important than how I bring home money. Anyone who doesn't see that has their priorities reversed.

  78. If women's work in the home is so valuable (and I think it is) then give them a paycheck for it. The Dept of Labor once estimated that it would cost well in excess of $100k to pay for the services provided by a "stay at home mom."

  79. Who should give them a paycheck? No one gives me a paycheck for cleaning my own toilet.

    Working parents are very aware of how much childcare costs, and it is nowhere near 100K (and drops precipitously after age 5). As for the rest of it: working parents do all of that too. They just consider it part of being an adult and maintaining a home and a life.

    Studies trying to elevate "women's work" are not feminist. The feminist approach is to stop considering any of it "women's work" in the first place.

  80. Looking as the US economy it is a moot point for most- A vast majority of women choose to work or work by necessity, no matter what the positivves and negatives that research may highlight, given the cost of providing housing, healthcare and education for a family. By doing so they are modeling coping mechanisms and a set of behaviors that it's helpful for their children to learn about: : competing demands, compromises, tight schedules and time management, and collaborative measures to mitigate.

  81. Our society values salaried work, and power accrues to those who earn money.

    Children are aware of these social values, so it is not hard to see that benefits (or at least certain values) are going to emerge in children of working mothers.

    This is not to say in my view that one option or another, working out side the home vs staying at home w children, is really better.

  82. This is not at all surprising.
    However, while it is perfectly understandable why having a working mother overall can benefit children - or at least not harm them - there is no way that going back to work after only 12 weeks of maternity leave (if that) can be good for either the mother or the baby.
    I would never not work, even if my husband earned enough that my income did not matter, but sure would be nice to have at least 6 months of maternity leave.

  83. Only the US and Papua New Guinea have no mandated paid maternity leave. Many nations are moving on to paid paternity leave as well, leaving us in their dust.

  84. >

    First what is your definition of work? I'm going to assume that it has a bourgeois quality to it. Like writing articles such as this one and calling it work.

    I also assume you cannot possibly mean cutting fish for other people all day at a factory?

    In my experience people who say work is fun or good for you, generally have never really worked in their life. If they had they would not say such inane things

    The child only cares loves play (pleasure) not work(reality Principle)

    "Freud and Blake are asserting that the ultimate essence of our being remains in our unconscious secretly faithful to the principle of pleasure, or, as Blake calls it delight. To say this is to call in question the psychological assumptions upon which our Western morality has been built. For two thousand years or more man has been subjected to systematic effort to transform him into an ascetic animal. He remains a pleasure-seeking animal. Parental discipline, religious denunciation of bodily pleasure, and philosophic exaltation of the life of reason have left man overtly docile, but secretly in his unconscious unconvinced, and therefore neurotic. Man remains unconvinced because in infancy he tasted the fruit of the tree of life, and knows that it is good, and never forgets.”….

    "Children, at the stage of early infancy, which Freud thinks critical, are unable to distinguish between their souls and their bodies; in Freudian terminology, they are their own ideal.

    Norman O. Brown

    NOB

  85. Mothers who have opted out of work in my area have typically had children with health conditions or learning disabilities that make it difficult to outsource critical parts of their care. A child who is constantly sick may spend a great deal of time absent from school and ordinary babysitters generally decline to care for sick children. I know kids with autism who are constantly at speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy. Sometimes these kids need a lot of support in school, and other times they are often sent HOME from school, because they bit someone, or had a meltdown in class etc. Someone then has to leave work (or be at home) to pick up their care. Sometimes the mothers themselves have health conditions that preclude work. Perhaps they themselves are sick so often that no workplace would want them.

    How are such situations handled by surveys on the benefits of working mothers?

  86. The author of this article is making a very basic mistake - because two things are correlated, does not mean they are causal. There is more than one explanation for the results of this study. For example, stay-at-home-moms may not have the same confidence and feelings of mastery that working moms do and may communicate these feelings to their daughters. Alternately, stay-at-home moms may have taught their daughters different values and principles about what their priorities should be. Daughter of working moms may have been taught that success in the working place is the highest priority. And which of these findings might actually be a benefit to children in terms of whether they live meaningful happy lives we have no idea, nor do we seem to care.

  87. Just because a woman works outside the home does not mean that she teaches her children that success in the working place is the highest priority. Is that what you would also say about fathers? I rather doubt it. My husband and I both worked outside the home--and chose jobs that had flexibility. We were on no one's fast track to the heights of income and success. We did it because we believed that both parents were important to our children and that by sharing work inside and outside the home we taught our children a different path than the ones grew up on. We both grew up in families where we rarely saw our fathers because they were always working. I was lucky enough to finally get to know my dad when he retired. Unfortunately, my father in law died at the height of his career in his forties. His children know all about his considerable accomplishments, but they barely knew him.

  88. Yes, it seems that the most important thing in life, to be deemed "successful," is to be making the most amount of money. What about happiness and a sense is connection that is hard to develop when you spend just a few hours a day together, when your parent is stressed out dragging you to school in the morning and then running home after work to make dinner and put you to bed.

    I'm sorry but my daughter is quite happy to be home with me. I get her at 2:15o each day. she has lots of play dates and we do many interesting activities. Often times we go on walks in the evening and go by her school which is a block away. She is horrified to see that kids are still waiting for their parents to get them when it is close to 6 PM and she has been home for four hours.

  89. My mother worked because we needed the income. The effect of her working depended upon how she interacted with her employer. When she worked for her father, because she could get flexible hours to take care of us, she would usually come home very angry and show it. I regret that I misused this to lessen my respect for her. In the meantime my mother made sure that my brother and I had everything we needed.

    Years later, when my mother worked for a government agency she was different – so much better-natured and self-respecting. I also later learned how good her work was when she worked for her father and that I should have wanted to know why she could be so angry, instead of misusing it. (I am also not blaming her father for what happened.)

    In reading some readers’ comments, I was moved by how some of them admired their working mothers and how it had a very good effect on them. It seems to me that what is essential is that, whatever a woman decides, it is crucial how she sees her children – as mainly a treasured part of her life and not use her job to feel children are part of a burdensome existence. And every child, for his or her own good, should be encouraged to know his or her mother, and not just be served by them. If you think this is unrealistic, you can ask is what mothers most want from children, besides their success, is that they know and value them as human beings and not just as mothers, and how much good does this do for their children?

  90. I am so relieved to discover that children with a working mother may actually benefit from having a mother who works for pay. I went to work when my daughter was 11 months old, and worked throughout her childhood. Sometimes I wondered if it might not be better if I stopped working and hung around the apartment while she was at school, but I always concluded that it would be better for her if I worked outside the apartment, because ultimately, she would be better off if she had food, a place to come to after school and spend the night, a place to bathe, a place to study, and a place to keep her clothes and other possessions. I decided that I, too, would be better off if I had those things. So yes, my daughter did benefit from my working full time, absolutely. I was single, and it seemed to be the better choice. Claire Cain Miller neglected to mention the advantages of children having food and a place to live when she parsed out the benefits that working mothers confer on their children. "Mounting evidence" that children benefit from not being homeless? Wow--now there's an insight.

  91. Given an American public that so often can't be bothered to vote, that often votes for the very worst choice on the ballot, that can't follow traffic laws, that lacks even the most basic knowledge of history or science and that won't pay taxes for services that would benefit themselves and people like themselves---Given all that doesn't it very possibly follow that many children benefit from not having such people around them all the time and are better off with parents simply out making money rather than filling their heads with lies and anger?

  92. I have often enjoyed the articles in the Upshot section. However, I am seeing more and more a disturbing trend of reporting on very weak social science studies and grossly overinterpreting their results. The main focus of supposed "mounting evidence" is a study that we learn halfway into the article was unpublished. This does not inspire great confidence in its methodology or the validity of its conclusions. Even then, the magnitude of the reported differences, even giving them the benefit of the doubt regarding statistical significance, are not very dramatic (example: 69 vs. 66; 28 vs. 22, etc.). My point is that this kind of study is being used to make some pretty big claims (see the title), and this kind of article is becoming more and more characteristic of the Upshot. Readers need to be cautious about taking many of these things at face value.

  93. Amen to that! Thanks for stating what has become a "mounting" problem with data: creating a narrative to promote an agenda.

  94. Of course, you are right overall. Sociological studies are virtually always suggestive rather than definitive. You can't do a double blind controlled experiment when you are dealing with human behavior over generations. However, you missed a significant point raised in this article. The effects of maternal employment were small across many countries, but they were large, quite large, in some countries, including the United States.

  95. "I have often enjoyed the articles in the Upshot section. However, I am seeing more and more a disturbing trend of reporting on very weak social science studies and grossly overinterpreting their results"

    Could not agree more, and generally the "upshot" is a cry by the author, the commenters or both for more employer & taxpayer-funded perks and services for only certain lifestyle choices. Whatever happened to the objective journalism the NYT prided itself on, instead of the present subjective cherry-picking?

  96. First, it's not the amount of time. It is the quality of that time.

    Second, the mom with the highly intelligent job, say practicing, teaching MD, professor, lawyer, jurist, farmer, business manager, journalist, et cetera, offers interesting company and an education for the child....

    Third, the additional caregivers to fill in will expose the child to different flavors of adult behavior and ideas, which can only help.

    Last, the housewife home bound must write, weave, teach, school, cook, work the family schedule and budget, do the school relations, PTA, neighborhood stuff, and deal with local issues to remain interesting... all of which can be done alongside a fascinating work effort outside the house....

    To simply sit around and open the mail is boring and will produce the same in the children.

  97. Such a ridiculous statement: "It's not the amount of time." Yes, it is. Kids need someone who LOVES them (Only a parent will do that fully) all the time. Second, you say a "parent with the highly intelligent job" is better "company." Just so you know fella, most children's literature is NOT written at college level. Third, you say "the additional caregivers ..expose the child to different flavors of adult behaviors and ideas." There are no "flavors" of adults and there are very few adults who will care about your kids. Especially in today's world. So dumb.

  98. Sorry ,that might have been for you ! I stayed home for 20 years with my kids and I raised some very independent successful children ! They also cook ,clean etc and are single and not married ! so the study has flaws ! It depends on the stay at home parent's attitude towards life and what you want your children to be ! I wanted self sufficient ,independent girls and that they are - and they scare the men ( because they still are so conservative !)

  99. Studies have shown that the amount of time also matters. That does not mean that a parent needs to be home all the time. Rather the quality time often occurs in the moment--riding in the car, putting away groceries, folding laundry. You have to be around enough for these moments to happen.

  100. I have a global job that has me travel almost every week - usually for 2-3 days. The rest of the time I work from home. My two sons 17 and 19, plan meals, shop, cook, do laundry when they need to. (They almost never clean.) I was gone on tuesday this week the meal was grilled lamb chops with asparagus basted in cinnamon, tarragon and ginger. They laugh that their girlfriends can't cook and remarked: they had stay at home moms.

  101. DIane Burley, kudos to you! I hope that my daughter can meet men like the ones yours sons are growing into. (btw, neither one of us is a very good cook, and I worked full time as a single parent. So I'm guessing that you are a good cook. and passed on that interest to your sons. Sadly, my daughter had a different sort of role model in the kitchen.)

  102. My husband learned to cook in US for similar reasons. He now cook for our family and does all the grocery shopping and most the laundry. And like your sons, he does not clean. But it makes for a good division of labor.

    Young women who cook are becoming rarer and rarer. In another generation cooking will be a man's job is most households.

  103. There is the Clear prejudice here that children can be dropped fromt he womb and the dropped off at some "caregiver" who will (of course) provide the nurture and guidance that a mother will. The fallacy of this is so encompassing that it boggles the mind. However, the greater fallacy is this article which Once Again fails to demand two parent families for children and their need for constant protection against the forces of social indoctrination from the schools and the peer pressures so evident. Not insignificantly, the two-incomes-needed family directly correlates to the vast hordes of immigrants that have driven down wages in the US, and the outsourcing of jobs that ruined the great factory jobs which sustained American families. Stop abusing kids. They need two parents and they need one at home All The Time.

  104. My mother worked when I was young, and no, she wasn't "abusing her kids."

  105. It's almost like you didn't read the article...

  106. gee gosh. why bother even educate the girls then. No point if they should just aspire to stay home and tend hearth and home…

  107. What about the children of women who clean motel rooms for a living? Hold two jobs? Commute hours each way to work hard for peanuts? The study assumes child care and a white middle/upper middle class lifestyle with a college degree in forming its conclusions. Everything these people do benefits their children.

  108. women work now because of money inflation requiring two people to make what one person would have made in the 50s

  109. Please stop assuming that all women want to be at home all day. Women are human beings, just like men, with varied interests and wants.

  110. Some of us work because we like it.

  111. Mounting Evidence of confirmation bias?
    These sorts of essays may tell us something about the writer but they tell us little about the question raised.
    Better Headline: A Poignant Divide: Some Helped, Other's Hurt.

    Diving in to the Maternal Work Early in the lives....study we discover data leading to the following conclusion:
    Mom working outside the home helps children in single parent and/or welfare homes but hurts children of middle/upper middle class 2 parent households.

    1. A positive association between mom working and child's achievement in 1 parent or welfare home (table 5 p 929; text p 927).
    2. A negative association between mom working and child's achievement in non-welfare families (same table 5; same text p 927).
    3. Negative association between mom working and child's achievement in majority 2 parent home (table 5. p 929.
    These negative associations are strong by the statistics used. In the interest of a dispassionate analysis, Ms. Miller should have made this clear.
    4. As always; correlation is not causation, etc.

  112. Thanks for a sensible and informative post. And honest, which I guess isn't something we should expect from these columns.

  113. It makes sense that children of working moms would model that behavior. Girls that grow up with moms that are educated and work will see that behavior as normal and something to aspire to. Sons will similarly see dads that share family duties when their wives work.

    I think families should do what works for them without judging others. But I find the outcome of this study fascinating. Let's support all families.

  114. I was raised in a poor two parent household where both parents worked so the family could pay the rent and buy food. My older sister and I were latch key kids since I was five. We learned to be independent and how to cook and clean. My sister made dinner every night and I learned to assist as I got older. After my sister left home, I made dinner until I graduated high school. I was a first generation college student who knew how to cook and take care of myself including not to go overboard drinking at parties. I graduated college, worked, obtained a master's degree, married and had a child of my own. I loved working and continued to work throughout her childhood. I believe I was much happier working during the day and spending quality time with her in the evenings and on weekends. I managed her soccer team. A well educated, stay-at-home mom lived across the street from us when my daughter was in first grade. They had a son in first grade and one day the mother said to me that her son failed spelling. I asked her what he was getting on his weekly spelling quiz and she didn't even know there was a weekly quiz. Today my daughter is a dentist with two children and appreciates what she learned from me as she was growing up. She says she loves her life: her job, then coming home to her children. It really depends how you spend the time with your children not just 'being home'.

  115. Let's just embrace the idea that both parents should be economically and emotionally responsible for the children, and ultimately themselves. Like it or not, this is our cultural reality. It is our legal reality. It is the world all women enter today. The option of being a stay-at-home mom is never really a good option. I am a single parent in my 50's. My kids are almost independent. I "stayed" home for about 5 years. I don't feel it was a great help to anyone in the family. Getting back to working was not easy, and I am still in transition 20 years after having left my field of teaching college to stay home. I feel that I am a better role model to my daughter and son as a working person today. Work doesn't define my life. My relationships are at the center of my life, and I work to provide education, housing, and financial security for my children. Every day I learn of a new friend getting divorced after 20 years of marriage. All these women have been working at home or for their husband's businesses, but they now face a harsh reality with limited resources and little ability to earn. They are intelligent and wonderful parents, but they were not prepared for reality. At the end of the day marriage is an economic and legal relationship that can be dissolved. And when this happens women are expected to function as adults in the world. "Maintenance" is hardly enough compensation.

  116. I think the key question is why the positive effect is greatest in low-income /single-parent families whereas mom's working for a paycheck might have a negative outcome in middle-class / double-income families. Do children sense real need and purpose, the "right" intention of mom's work? Do they support it by doing their part if they don't feel it is mom's choice to work outside the home? I personally believe children are way more receptive, intelligent and capable than we seem to expect. I believe there is a golden middle way and that this is different for every family situation. Part-time jobs are a much-needed solution.

  117. I don't see that result as particularly meaningful. It's hard to say without seeing the paper how well they've compensated for confounding variables but *why* isn't the woman working? Is she less skilled/intelligent/diligent/healthy? In other words, the difference may be due to the traits of the mothers, family, and community rather than the question of whether the mother works at all. It could even be an outlier, like working mothers less likely to smoke, drink, or do drugs.

    That's why studies of this sort are pretty much useless. They have the appearance of science, but no real scientist would take a study of this kind too seriously. It's just too hard to compensate for confounding variables.

  118. I am very lucky as a full-time working professional woman to have had a role model in my mother, who recently retired as a university professor. Our family has always valued education for girls, and I have read that when women are educated, society generally advances. It would have been a waste of my medical training were I to have quit working after our child was born; think of all the students vying for the opportunities I had. Not to mention - I enjoy my job, and I realize I am tremendously fortunate to have supportive mentors and colleagues at work. One of my best friends is a full-time stay-at-home mom, but in general I prefer the company of other working moms, because they just get it. Non-working parents and spouses of non-working parents (regardless of gender) don't understand the personal fulfillment that many working parents have by splitting their time at a satisfying job and in a vibrant home environment.

    It would be great hubris to think that my child would have preferred my company to that of her preschool peers when she was little.

  119. I'm also a physician - and I agree, after all that effort getting my degree, and the investment in me made by the institution where I trained, it never occurred to me to quit work when I had my kids. But interestingly, when my son entered first grade, 9 of the 22 moms in his class were MD's, and only two of us were working. It's great when women have the luxury to make a choice. But I will say, your kids' needs change constantly. My two are entering college now. I've seen many friends regret their decision to walk away from careers once their children need less of their time and attention.

  120. Since these benefits have to do with gender equality, it's not likely that this study will convince anti-working-mom partisans. As evidenced by some of the comments here, women's equality is not considered a positive by many.

  121. What does this have to do with equality? It's about outcomes of parenting choices, and no, it won't convince me one way or the other, as the "studies" are laughably uncontrolled. The only reaction I have to the results is to have no opinion one way or the other.

  122. Working mother here. Daughter of a working mom, married to the son of a working mom. My children have thrived at excellent, nationally-accredited daycare and now are in a well-regarded public school and after-school program. I feel no guilt about the work I do outside the home. My full-time job has not come at the detriment of my children, but has for my spouse, who's dream of June Cleaver-like cleanliness and efficiency is dashed by the reality that he has to cook dinner 3-4 nights a week, and do the (slight) majority of school pick-ups and drop-offs. Fortunately, I have been inside the houses of my mom friends who do not work outside the home (and with whom I am not "at war"), and while their children are great, Martha Stewart they are not. If this isn't really a discussion about moms who have made different choices about working, and whether their children are better off, what's left to debate? Fundamentally, I think it's politicians, men in particular, who are uncomfortable about working women, and ultimately won't pass legislation that will do anything to ease the burden of working parents everywhere.

  123. Or perhaps the lawmakers are realizing that working non-parents everywhere also are their constituents and feel the already-disproportionate share of taxes those citizens pay, which are redistributed by the hundreds of billions of dollars a year via programs available only to people who have made different reproductive choices, are sufficient.

    I'd like my burdens eased too, but I don't expect my fellow taxpayers to foot the bill.

  124. Oh the joys of memories of nationally accredited day-care! In frank discussions with people now in their 20s, you will find they have deep issues with not having spent more time with their mothers when children. Children spent all their time with their mothers from the dawn of humanity until the industrial era. If you want to work or have to, fine. But don't pretend its ideal or preferred. The natural biological state is for young children to be with their mothers until probably ages 6-8. I don't criticize the working but I criticize the attitude that its superior or a great thing.

  125. (1) These statistical differences are within the error rate. In other words, the differences could be coincidence.

    (2) How do you explain the low marriage rates and the high divorce rates in the U.S.? And, what do you make of the low birth rates in Europe? And, what the increasing level of single motherhood in the U.S.?

    Not taking into account these difference between countries and between economic class within the same country can lead to bad results.

    This is the mistake many researchers make: they simplify the question to the point where they can easily measure the outcomes but also make them irrelevant in a more complex real world context.

  126. We should call a permanent cease fire on the mommy wars. Most people with children do the best they can raising them. Enough with pitting one group against the other. We all do the best we can.

  127. "She controlled for factors including age, education and family makeup. The effects shrank after she controlled for these, but Ms. McGinn said the difference was still statistically significant."

    Do I understand correctly that the statistics reported in this article are the ones *before* she controlled for other relevant factors? If so, why?

  128. It seems articles about the "role of women" will never go away, as if we're still living in the 1950s. The fact is, most people who don't work outside the home are dependent on someone else to support them. Call me cynical, but that model has never worked for me, and I've been married for over 30 years. We always taught our daughter AND our son that they have to be able to make their own way in the world, and that means having jobs and making their own money. I hope they will have children some day, but only when they can afford either to stay home with them or hire good child care, whichever path they choose.

  129. Typically, a stay-at-home mother is either very rich (supported by a man) or very poor (supported by the taxpayers), so what this article is really saying is that children of middle class mothers are 'advantaged'.

    Is that news?

  130. A most important issue ... why are two incomes and the sacrifice of family time and serenity not even sufficient to keep families in the middle class? Why was it possible fifty years ago for a family to own a modest home, educate their kids and take a vacation once in awhile on one parents' income?
    We have been led to believe that the two income family is a superior model not only economically but also produces better marriages, better children and a better society.
    One in 4 women in America now take a psychiatric medication according to a Feb. 28th article in the NYT.
    Perhaps the model of the two career family isn't quite as ideal as the studies are portraying.

  131. "The mommy wars might seem like a relic of the 1990s. . . . " More like a relic of the 1970s. Why are we still talking about this?

  132. Best line: "Ms. McGinn said parents seemed to be serving as role models."
    Whodathunkit?

  133. I will never understand why the question is always "what's best for the kid". What about the mother? What about the psychological benefits to a woman who is doing just exactly what she wants as a parent and the benefits that offers for the whole family? As the old saying goes: "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Raising a family is a life journey for all its members. It's time these conversations took in to account the well-being of everyone in the family, not just the offspring.

  134. If you are not interested in "what's best for the kid", why did you bother having them?

  135. Forget the correlative studies, anyone with scientific training knows there may be numerous reasons for the statistical links between working mothers and apparent benefits to children.

    Work or stay at home if you are lucky enough to have the choice. Just figure out what is right for you and your family and do it, at least to the best of your ability. That's all any of us can do.

  136. There may be numerous causal factors behind the correlations presented here. However, they prove an important point by contradiction: namely, that there is no simplistic causal link between a mother working and children with learning disabilities, diminished income prospects as an adult, etc. Such a proof-by-contradiction is important to bring up in the public discourse because is clearly debunks several premises underlying the arguments for reverting back to "traditional families."

  137. (Sigh) This reminds me of nutrition research -- meaningless uncontrolled "studies" that prove whatever you want them to. And then you take a bunch of those meaningless studies and use them to produce a meaningless metastudy, in which the results gain statistical significance, but remain meaningless.

    I particularly love "The effects shrank after she controlled for these." Uh, yeah -- the question being, as with an epidemiological study, what other confounding variables are out there and *not* controlled for.

  138. And we don't even have the study to consult to find out what exactly she controlled for and how much the correlation between employment and positive outcome was reduced. Not to mention we have no comprehensive definition of the study's variables and outcomes and why the latter were chosen. That is the problem with unpublished research or research that cannot at least be read in unpublished form.

  139. This whole debate is about access to good child care.

  140. My mother stayed home and catered to my father, and to me and my brothers. She had few interests beyond her family, which included cooking good meals, keeping a clean house, and knowing her husband and children's desires, and trying to satisfy those desires and needs. I saw her as a drudge, enslaved by us all. In retrospect, I don't think she was that unhappy, but I don't think she she was that happy, either. Serving four demanding souls was a 24-hour/7-days-a-week job without vacation. It was a little merciless...and somewhat thankless. With departure of the last child, she was bereft. It was not the life I would choose.

  141. Are we all just cogs in an economic system that benefits a few people at the top? Sure having everybody toiling away -- mothers, fathers, even children -- would create more wealth, but when so much of it goes to the 1 percent, what's the point? If a woman enjoys spending days with her young children, isn't that as important as that her labor creates enough wealth that some 1 percenter can buy a bigger yacht?

  142. Mothers have little choice about whether to stay at home and "mother" or to join the workforce. Economics demand that they work outside the home. But the benefits of a nurturing parent at home during the first five years of a childs life cannot be denied.

  143. As my daughters grew up I got to know, or at least observe, hundreds of kids and their families (as we all do). I was keenly aware of whose mother worked and whose did not. Those kids are now 24-27. The results of my observational "study" became clear by middle school and are now 100% confirmed - in general, the kids whose mothers worked, even at demanding, full time jobs, did well academically and were independent, self-confident and happy. This was true even for those kids who had to wait at school to be picked up by parents at 6:00 p.m. and got dropped off very early. Clearly, the key criteria for happy kids was whether the parents were stable, sensible people. Beyond that, a working mother was a positive. The fathers were more involved in the kid's day to day life, the kids were not always the center of the universe and they saw what it meant to have to keep lots of balls in the air at once.

  144. I LOATHED working when my children were born. What I wanted was to stay home and enjoy them, be there with them, raise them. I resented working. I resented being away from my children. I worked because I had to and I found no joy in being away from my children. The years from 0 to five are the most critical in a child's development. I wanted to be there for those years. When I was able to stay home for short amounts of time I relished each and every second. If I have learned anything from being a working mom it was to enjoy the seconds, enjoy the moments. When I was out working, those moments kept going, their lives and mine kept moving. When I lost my job when my son was a senior in high school, I was so happy. My children noticed the change and remarked I was so "much more chill." There is no going back, but there were the moments of being so happy just to have an afternoon, just to go out to lunch, just to be together. If I had the choice, wild horses could not have made me work.

  145. To each her own. My mother was "much more chill" when we sent her back to a fulltime job when we were in second (him) and fifth (me) grade.

  146. Continually we learn that parents/caretakers are the biggest role models for children. Over and over again. Where does this leave millions of very low-income families?

  147. With all of the examples to the contrary, I find this article amazingly biased and incomplete.

  148. What examples?

  149. I work full time as an engineer with a 4 year old kid. My mom worked the entire time I grew up. Unlike her I have a husband who picks up much of the slack. His mom worked, at least while he was in high school.

    I love being able to tell my daughter I am an engineer. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from my work, and we talk about our days every day. Every day she can learn a bit more about how to be a smart woman and get away with it. I love being able to go to a train museum and teach her how a steam engine works, and teach her all the fun stuff that comes from knowing how the world works.

    If I was going to be a stay at home mom I could only teach her half of that. How the world works, but not how to be a woman in that world. It is hard to model the sort of self determination it takes to work in a man's world when you are not facing it daily. You can teach a lot, but there is more to raising kids than being there to teach them to tie their shoes.

  150. I've worked outside the home for 40 years and have two daughters in their 20s. There's no question in my mind that the benefits have outweighed any drawbacks. I think it's been especially important for my daughters to see me struggle and push back and persevere despite all of the day-to-day stresses, which let's face it, are there whether you work or not. Were there days when I didn't want to work? Of course, but I went anyway. And when I lost that long-time job in my mid 50s, while they were in college, I hustled like crazy to rebuild my career. I think it was good for them to see this and helped them learn to hustle too. Everyone has to figure out how to earn a living in a very difficult, narrowing economy, and I can't imagine advising my daughters that being a stay-at-home mother is a realistic option for the future. But working is fun too. I liked it and still do. I like the challenge, the stimulation, the camaraderie, getting dressed up every day, having some place to go, working toward a goal, completing a project, getting things done. I'm proud to be able to teach my daughters the fun aspect of working, too.

  151. Here is what I know for sure:

    Working or not working, kids do not raise themselves.

    Raising them is not just feeding them. It is made up of a billion small moments, examples set, talks had, hugs shared, losses felt and everything in between.

    You cannot phone that in......

    So every family makes choices that best fit those needs. In our family, one career is exceedingly more demanding than the other and so I stayed home. Sometimes I feel like I hit the jackpot, other times I am lonely and bored and in between is the stuff of mundane life.

    I wish women were not made to have to choose those first few years between the yearnings that naturally occur between mother and child and work. There is a cadre of overeducated women who could return to the workplace and add tremendous value if employees crafted positions around women's real needs. When they don't, then those of us lucky enough to have economic choices often leave the workplace. That's modern living.

    I comfort myself with the fact that my children are emotionally healthy, smart and confident. I also keep my mind and body sharp and the resume polished enough that it can come back out again when it's needed. Will I take a career setback when I return? Duh. By that point I will be in my mid 50s and out of work for twenty years so that's the reality.

    ....but then again, who knows. Maybe I will craft a different path for myself-one that doesn't rely on other's people's judgement. After all, I know best what I exceed at,,

  152. Exactly. But, unless you have very marketable skills or a field in which opportunities outnumber applicants, it s very hard to reenter the workforce in your mid-fifties. I was out of the workforce for a while because of health issues. I have been working the last several years but at nowhere near the salary and responsibility I once had. Ageism is alive and well.

    As for the "yearnings between mother and child" when they are young, this makes it sound that those best choice is always the mom staying home if she can afford to. Not necessarily. Some woman are better moms because they are employed. I certainly was. I would have been less than good for my child. My spouse could comfort him as an infant and toddler much m o 're than I could and I lacked the patience to be with him all the time in adulthood and early elementary school. I actually preferred his middle school and high school years. Like your kids, he was "healthy, smart" and grew to be confident. To each her own.

  153. Why is it so clear we want our daughters to work but not as clear for mothers?

  154. I stayed at home because going out to works seemed trivial to me, when the real joy and meaning in my life was at home and what a good time my daughter and I had, the happiest, most fulfilling of years and I would not trade them for anything. And by the way, I became a single parent when my daughter was two. I supported us by taking care of another toddler three days a day. After that, when she was in school, I substitute taught and eventually went back to teaching when she was in Junior High, and although I never had a job that didn't coincide with her school schedule, I felt I was a better Mother, more focused, more engaged before, when I was not working, butI never put the job before my responsibilities at home. As for my daughter, she took nothing but AP courses her senior year in High School and never scored less than a 5 on any of them. She now has a good job with an advanced degree. I never got the attraction of working outside the home while your children are growing up when what you have is an irreplaceable, fleeting and wonderful world at home.

  155. Working when one has a choice is not always putting job ahead of child. I knew in my heart of hearts that I would not have been a good stay-at-home mom from the get-go. Part of the reason I stayed in the workforce was because I knew it was better for my child. And my job NEVER came before my child...

  156. here we go with mom-baiting. Nancy, perhaps you feel defensive after reading the article but please don't then assert the superiority of your choice over working outside the home. You must have had quite a lot of child support if the only job you had was babysitting 3 days a week. It's good that you did what was right for you but for many of us who had meaningful work, we also spent meaningful and wonderful times with our children while they were at home. It is NOT mutually exclusive, e.g., either-or. Sorry that your work would have been trivial but not everyone's work is so. (Indeed, I am aware that most American women are not as privileged as I am and work at crappy jobs). I got to do all kinds of things with my son even though I worked and as a result of my job, he travelled outside the US a lot and became aware of other languages and countries. We had great experiences at home and elsewhere; please don't suggest that women who work outside the home are emotionally absent and lose out on everything. ain't true.

  157. I wish there actually WERE real choices about working for the majority of moms in this country.

    I doubt that most of us have thrilling, fulfilling jobs. Most of us work because we have to--as single parents or in two-parent households where even two salaries only grant us a tenuous hold on a modest lifestyle.

    I refused to continue full-time employment when my child entered middle school. I didn't want to face a lifetime of regret because, added all together, I'd been away at work more than I'd been home with him. And home time was filled with necessary chores, the rush to get dinner on the table, weekends full of laundry and cooking meals that could be quickly reheated during the week.

    It was a terrible financial sacrifice to stay home and I still needed a part-time job in the neighborhood.

    Those were the best years of my life. In adolescence, children talk to you on their schedule. If you are a working parent, by the time your kids are in the mood to talk to you, you're likely heading off to bed. At dinnertime they are more likely to be laconic than chatty.

    My child would emerge from hours of homework to take a break, maybe ten or eleven at night, and because I was awake and available, would talk to me about everything and anything that he felt like discussing. I didn't have to push and prod to pull three words out of him. We had long, genuine conversations. And when he went off to college, both of us were ready for him to enter independent life.

  158. Working parents can produce a non-hierarchy where everyone- including the children, are treated equally- contributing to a well-oiled machine that doesn't get bogged down in ‘self’

  159. NY Times readers: not all working women with children have dynamic, exciting, fulfilling jobs. They work as cashiers, janitors, you-name-it so they can provide the necessities for their families. Their children may luck out and go to college or a good technical school to hopefully get good jobs.

    My "misguided" mother was a dietician who couldn't wait to stop working and have a family. She volunteered and was home with us children. My father supported a family of 5 as a SUNY professor and sent us to college (SUNY) without huge debt.

    Call this story of the 1960s quaint and non-feminist. Fast forward to 2015: is everybody happy and non-stressed working several jobs so they can live in a large home with 2+ automobilies, endless gadgets, and children who have to be extraordinary? Just asking...

  160. This is really just a very slow but consistent trend to provide greater equality for all groups . We still need to understand and change the barriers like prejudice ,laws and yes religion . The best advice is from Sheryl Sandberg ,what would you do if you weren't afraid ? The reality of action is to support Hillary Clinton as part of a movement as well as a candidate . Equal pay, right to choose , immigration , anti-rape laws , gay rights , and most important more women in elected postions would greatly accelerate change instead of blocking everything

  161. In agreement with many of the views already shared, and just to add a few things: 1. It is definitely the case that there is no loss without gain, and no concept of pleasure without pain. Therefore, much to the sacrifice of the mother is her child granted the ability to achieve benefits and advantages that may even be false in a sense. In other words, we try all we can to fit into this system we live in, and we try to do this in a way that will provide ideals such as harmony, happiness, and prosperity. However, this is all in relation to where the system would like to lead us. 2. We need not worry too much about this, and although we find ourselves within it, we still have the ability to achieve equality and all the aforementioned ideals within our own circle. This "solution circle" starts with our family, and eventually can be implemented towards outer circles. Integral education and thought is the means by which to achieve this. It helps us shape our environment in a way that we can enjoy it in complete balance without one person or family member taking too much of a burden. The main thing to understand is that everyone should be treated equally, everyone has desires, and all of these things should be taken into consideration when forming a mutual agreement between everyone.

  162. I'm a better mother *because* I work outside the home. I suspect that's true for a lot of us.

  163. Not working causes your kids to doubt and disrespect you especially when everyone else’s mom is working. My wife stayed home for 20 years..too long with an MBA..worked part time..only full time for 3 years. She watched me struggle with 2 jobs but resented me for not addressing it. He social network frayed and skills frayed and I fear the future as she is 57 with a 20 yr old MBA and only basic computer skills. Not pleasant and we all have tiptoed around it for years. Not fun and with both away at college this year it will be interesting.

  164. Not so sure one's kids disrespecting their mom because she doesn't work, Alan. I stayed at home with my kids for many years. I worked hard. Their Dad was supportive, as for him, the kids came first as well. When I felt I had found someone to watch my kids whom I trusted. Then I worked, but only part time. And then I worked more. And only when my kids were off to college did I ramp up my career (which is going quite well). I planned it this way. My kids will tell anyone that the foundation they received at home got them through to the other side of life's inevitable crises as they grew up. And they respect me. A a lot.

  165. kids with working mothers live in higher income homes- I don't see that this study controlled for income disparities.

  166. It's easy to say one's job never came before one's child. I suspect that is only true for people with at least more than average power at work.

    I was the support staff in the three-person office of a grantmaking foundation in NY, working for two supposedly socially-enlightened people who funded many social welfare programs. They weren't very good at keeping to deadlines, so the preparation of materials in advance of quarterly board meetings was often behind schedule.

    I'm sure many parents have experienced the dreadful feeling, after the other partner has already left for work--or as single parents--realizing that one's child is clearly coming down with an illness but you cannot stay home to take care of him without risking your job, even though you have a good benefits package and plenty of vacation days you're "entitled" to take. I once had to bring my child to the office, with a fever, and set him up in the conference room with a sleeping bag and some juice packs while I finished the last-minute work that I could have had done well in advance, had my bosses just done their part...

    I felt like the worst mom in the world, doing that to my kid who should have been home in his comfortable bed, and me caring for him there.

    That job was essential to our economic surival. In that elegant office, with one boss a trust-fund baby and the other with a prominent PR and Democratic Party activist background, I was the wage slave who would much rather have been home.

  167. My mother never worked outside the home and there were plenty of times when their activities came before us, particularly once we were school-aged. At the time, in the 60s & 70s I don't think anybody thought that children were always supposed to come first. Children were children and their needs were second to what the adults needed; if it was poker night then the sandwiches needed to be ready, the table cleared off and kids be seen -briefly- and not heard.

  168. All else being equal, the fact that the mother has a job means that the family has a higher income and, of course, at least one wage earner at home. There may also be a skew toward higher education because a lot of professional women continue to work after marrying.

    I can't tell from the article if there were any controls for these factors. It really matters if a reader is to make sense of the story.

  169. If you are not controlling for age, education, family makeup or a family's increased income with mom working... then what exactly are you trying to prove? Yes, smart, together Mom's have smart, together kids. That does not prove that smart, together stay-at-home moms do not also have smart, competent, well-adjusted kids.

    Stay-at-home mothers don't deserve the disparagement of this meaningless article. As a working person, you may simply be trying to goad the Mommy Wars from your own perspective. Most of us are too worn out though. Most of us have no heart left though for this battle. Let's face it the working mothers won the media war ages ago, stay-at-home mothers have been all but shut-out of the conversation.

  170. I think the article says that Ms. McGinn *did* control for many of the factors that you mention. It doesn't seem that the article is disparaging stay at home moms....at least, that's not the tone that I read. Also, as the article states, many working mothers feel that perhaps their kids would be better off if they were SAHMs (and many things and forces in society contribute to this guilt, which by the way, doesn't seem to afflict fathers).

  171. My sister and I (aged 43 and 46, respectively) were raised in a household with two working parents. Both were in real estate--our dad in commercial and mom in residential. We enjoyed a comfortable, happy, close-knit household. Our parents were equals who shared professional interests as well as parenting responsibilities. My sister and I were raised to take reaponsibilty for ourselves and contribute to the running of the household. Everyone had an age- and role-appropriate job. I remember feeling like I was part of a good, supportive team. My sister and I graduated from college (debt-free, thanks to our parents' collectively ability to have paid our much more reasonably priced public university fees), found jobs, and established successful careers. We both make well over six figures each and are still the best of friends. If our mom hadn't worked, I can't say that it would've turned out this way. Thanks, Mom (and Dad)!

  172. I am now in my 60s, and it was extremely common for the moms in my NY middle-class neighborhood to return to the workforce once their children were of middle-school age. Most of those moms had come from poor backgrounds as children, like my own mom did, and had worked to support their families before marriage, and after marriage before the children came. Many moms got civil service or retail jobs; I knew very few professional women in those days.

    I wish the NY Times would recognize that relatively few women may have had "careers," but the majority of them worked, in one capacity or another, outside the home while their children still inhabited it.

  173. "I wish the NY Times would recognize that relatively few women may have had 'careers,'"

    Few women had careers? What is your definition of a "career?" Nearly 100% of nurses were women. Teachers and secretaries (now referred to as executive assistants) are careers. So is retail sales and waitressing. You seem to be saying that if women did something it was somehow not a career..."Just working outside the home."

    It really is time that we quit seeing what women do as just "work" rather than a profession. Would you say the same thing about a man? If a man worked his entire life driving a truck or working in a hardware store is it "only working outside the home?"

    Women are motel maids, bartenders, day care workers, plumbers, electricians, farmers. Please tell me which are "jobs" and which are careers? I am a 66 y/o woman who happens to be an MD and had a mother who worked 70-80 hrs/week as a university dietitian.

    Dang! Why do you feel it is necessary to dismiss women? I knew hotel housekeepers who were exceptionally good at their craft. And unless you have ever worked as a cook or a maid you will never understand the organizational skills and ability to keep hotels sparkling clean, pick up after the dirtiest animals in the planet--human beings, and never even be noticed by customers, work as a cook from breakfast through late supper. Chefs are only men? Do you think that office buildings and hotels somehow magically clean themselves when people aren't around?

  174. I am a working Mom that is the main bread winner in our family. My husband is a teacher and I trade stocks for a large asset manager. We take the team approach, but sometimes it is awkward or confusing for more traditional families to see a Mom making big financial decisions and the husband make more parenting calls, including our parents. It works for us. We are contributing to our family what we are good at. I like to think we are a progressive family empowering our daughter to call the shots in her life and work to her strengths, instead of a social stereo-type!

  175. Hooray! Finally, a study showing what many of us believe is the truth. Now we have data demonstrating that not only does a working mom not harm her children, she may also help them in the long run! For those of us who suffered guilt, self-doubt and the disapproval of others, even after raising children to successful adults, this is welcome news indeed!

  176. Here's what I have learned now that my children are adults, and we can have conversations as equals: The things I worried about often were barely noticed by my kids, and the things I didn't spend anytime considering were making deep impressions on their growing psyches. So relax, do the best you can and accept you will be blamed for something no matter how enlightened you think you are.

  177. I went back and read this twice and STILL couldn't figure out 1) What your premise was and 2) What exactly did you find out?

    You end with “Even in the U.S., where we continue to have this debate,” Ms. Gerson said, “we found that most people believe the right decision for a family is the one that works best for them.”

    What? First of all comparing the United States to ANY other modern country is useless. No other modern country has the amount of poverty that we have here. We don't have nationalized child care. No government paid public education K through 16. No universal health care. Many women don't even have access to birth control!

    These three things GREATLY affect the reason that women work. Even with the ACA women won't quit a job that provides excellent health care insurance. So she works because she HAS to work. OR she may not be able to work as there is no one to care for her babies. Now we have reached a point where most middle class and poor people have NO way of going to college or even technical school. So if dad is working a low paying job of $12/hr, mom will be forced to work...then the children will continue down the path of HAVING to also work to simply put food on the table.

    Until we treat ALL Americans equally--day care, equal access and payment for health care, a marked increase in minimum wage we simply can't compare our working moms with moms in other countries. Good lord most red states have taken planned parenthood away from women!

  178. I worked at a private school in NYC and the location director told me that many of the mothers would have loved to have stayed home with their children but needed the extra income. How sad that some mothers work out of necessity and others out of luxury.

  179. Cold article.
    Were children of stay-at-home moms happier?

  180. ...And the 'next' article will have evidence that there is benefit for children who have mothers that DON'T work outside the home. Today there will be a study to prove 'X', tomorrow there will be a study to prove something completely contrary to 'X'. (Coffee is good for you! No wait, it's horrible for you!").

    I'm not sure I understand why all of this must be ground down to data analysis with such a simplistic result. There are too many variables in the human condition to make an article like this worthwhile and title it as a a 'great discovery'.

    Of course there are benefits to children whose parents are happy, demonstrate good morals, and are involved in the kids' lives, while also brining home an extra buck. Can't we just keep it at that?

    In the end though, I suppose it's a good thought/conversation starter. Good on you NYT for posting it.