Are you a working mum? And if so, have you ever found yourself defending or justifying your choice (or need) to work? We bust five common myths about working mums.
One topic that’s always guaranteed spark heated debate, is the stay-at-home vs working mum argument.
Personally, we believe that every woman is an individual with the right to find a solution that works for her and her family, whether that’s to work or to stay at home with her children. But not everyone feels that way.
Everyone has an opinion about working mums
In fact, the benefits (or danger) of working or not when you’re a mum are often explored in emotionally-weighted media articles. And often they confusingly arrive at completely contradictory conclusions.
Here’s a quick example. A Google search of ‘children of working mums’ brings up the following top three results:
- Working mothers are good for children – but the guilt trips will keep coming
- Having a working mother works for daughters
- Working mothers risk damaging their child’s prospects
No wonder then that so many working mums feel guilt. But the truth is that there’s no one-answer-for-all approach to life that magically benefits every child and every mum. We’re all just trying to do the best – for ourselves, for our children and for our families.
Five common myths of working mums
So if you’re considering returning to work, or are a working mum who feels guilty about her choice (or need) to work, we thought we’d take some of the common working mum myths and explain why they aren’t necessarily right.
1) Mums only work because they have to
It is true that many mothers need to work to contribute to their family finances, or are even the main breadwinner (or only breadwinner if they’re a single mum). But money isn’t the only reason why we work. Sometimes we work because we love what we do. Or our career is a major part of our identity. We may work because we need the stimulation, or even to be around other people.
Working can also help mums to stave off depression. In fact there are a billion different reasons why mums work, and if working works for you and your family then there’s no reason why you should feel apologetic about choosing to do so.
2) Working mums pay someone to raise their children
One accusation we’ve heard levelled at a working mum was that she paid someone else to raise her child. But is that strictly true? Definitions of ‘raising’ all include the words nurturing, tending to, caring for, bringing up and educating.
While babysitters, nannies, and daycare providers are taking care of our children and meeting their needs, they don’t replace us. Schools don’t replace the parents, and nobody replaces your partner as a father, either even if he too is away from home all day.
A working mum may pay someone to care for her child while she’s a work, but she is raising her child – whether she’s at home 24/7 or working full time.
3) Working mums don’t give their children enough attention
Yes the reality is that working mums are often away from the home for some of the day. But that doesn’t mean that their children miss out on attention as a result.
If anything, being fulfilled and stimulated in other areas of your life, and having your need for control, belonging and goals met, can mean you have more energy and emotion left for your children.
A happy mum has more to offer her children – whether she’s a stay-at-home mum or a working mum. So enjoy the time you do have with your children, and cherish and nurture them. (Read tips on spending quality time together as a family.)
4) Working mums don’t love their children as much
Deciding (or needing) to return to work doesn’t man you love your children any less than a stay-at-home mum. Nor does it mean you love work more than your children.
You may work because you need to financially – or emotionally. Or you may wish to give your children opportunities you didn’t have, or to provide a more secure life for them.
You could be working because it’s the only way you know you can be the best version of yourself (rather than a grumpy mother nagging her children all day long out of frustration). There are lots of reasons why mums work, and none of them logically lead to the answer ‘they don’t love their children as much’.
(If you want to read a more eloquent response to this myth, read this working mum’s open letter to her daughter.)
5) Working mums have less happy families
The only sure-fire recipe for a miserable relationship in our book, is to make a lifestyle choice that isn’t right for you. If you’d rather stay at home with your children, then that’s the right decision for your family. But equally, if returning to work makes you happy then that can only be a good thing for your relationship, right?
According to sociologist Paul Amato from Penn State, having two working partners in a family can be a good thing. His research found that equality (in decision making and work) makes couples happier.
In fact, it also found that the happiest couples are upper-middle-class, two-career couples. These couples are apparently three times happier than the next happiest group – more traditional working and middle-class families with just one breadwinner.
There’s no ‘right’ answer for mums
As we said at the outset, there’s no ‘right’ answer. Working mum or stay at home mum – whatever choice you make (voluntarily or out of necessity) should be right for you and your family. If you’re a happy mum, you’ll raise happier children. And that’s all that matters.
Eileen Burton is a media and advertising consultant with years of leadership experience. She currently works for a UK-based company offering university assignments done by experts. When not consulting, she loves to immerse in her favorite activity, i.e., blogging on leadership and entrepreneur topics.Hannah Martin