Children of Working Mothers Speak Out: Let's Listen

working momIt's one of the biggest debates we have as mothers and one of the biggest sources of guilt: How bad are working moms for their children? Will our children be scarred for life because we kept working after they were born? Or are children more resilient than we give them credit for?

The research is pretty grim. Children of working parents are more obese. They are more likely to act out and misbehave (experts say some of this is because guilty parents are permissive ones), and they face more health problems, including asthma and accidents. Jeez, Louise. Why would anyone work?!

As a working mom myself, albeit one who works entirely from home and tends to be pretty flexible, these are the questions that keep me up at night. I know seeing two parents have careers is good for my kids, but what am I missing by not being the one who picks them up from school and who uses after school programs instead of picking them up right after the bell.

According to Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, having a working mom can affect kids in a not-so-great way.

"The reason working motherhood is vilified is because most psychologists believe that children thrive best when they have a warm, loving parent at home with them, particularly during the first three years of life," says Dr. Walfish. "During the first year of life, the main psychological goal for the infant is bonding and attachment to Mother."

More from The Stir: Working Moms Are Healthier Than Moms Who Stay Home & I'm Not Surprised At All

Oh, ouch. That hurts. As a mom who did stay home those first three years with my daughter, but who went back to working (from home) when my son was only 2, this does fill me with guilt.

Of course, it's not all bad. Julia M. Helms is an assistant manager of business development at EuroMed, Inc. who recently graduated from college. As the adult daughter of a working mom, she has been fascinated by working moms, and she and her mother recently started speaking to women's business groups on the subject.

"I am so lucky to have not one, but two parents who were proud of what they did every day, and never felt like my Mom’s job affected our relationship or her parenting in a negative way," says Helms, whose experience growing up has made her more committed to helping other moms continue to grow as women and nurture their potential beyond children.

And that's the whole idea behind working, isn't it? I feel blessed I had a "choice." I know not everyone does.

The fact is, working motherhood is a slog fest that can be very challenging. But it isn't really experts who can say how children of working moms turn out. The REAL experts are the grown kids. So here are five moms who had moms who worked to say what really happens after growing up with a working mom:

Emily, 35, Boston

  • Mom's occupation: Lawyer and professor.
  • Hours worked per week: 40.
  • What Emily is doing now: Senior Compliance Specialist with a small health plan based in Boston.
  • How was school: Graduated from top private high school. Went on to top college. Earned a graduate degree.
  • Ever done prison time: Nope.
  • How you felt about your mom working as a kid: "My mother was/is a very strong role model for me. I was taught the importance of education and the importance of settings goals and working hard. My mother was able to do both what she loves doing (and is very good at) and to raise me with my father."
  • So are you a working mom or a stay-at-home mom: "Now I am a mother and I work full time. My schedule will not be as bendable as my mother’s unfortunately. My daughter is at a wonderful day care center. I honestly believe that it is important for my daughter to see me work and to see what my education and hard work has done for me and what it can do for her."

Pam, 39, NYC

  • Mom's occupation: Legal secretary.
  • Hours worked per week: 40, plus overtime.
  • What Pam is doing now: Editor and publisher of
  • How was school: NYU graduate -- "Somehow, she paid for my college full-on. I asked her how she did it and she said, 'I worked a lot of overtime.' Her working paid for my opportunity to go to good school -- so her working literally meant my future."
  • Ever done prison time: Nope.
  • How you felt about your mom working as a kid: "I feel like back then, my mom couldn't take time 'off' to do school activities like volunteer in the classroom, or partake in class trips ... Despite the fact that she worked in New York City and we lived in a New Jersey suburb, she still got home and was able to cook a fully home-cooked meal. I don't know how she managed to do it all."
  • So are you a working mom or a stay-at-home mom: "I always knew that I'd be a working mom as well. I've worked full-time plus for 15 years up until last year. But, I wanted more balance. I wanted more say in my life. I am now a social media and marketing consultant and blogger so I make my own hours, which allows me the best of both worlds. I can take my girls to their after school activities, participate in class trips, and volunteer at school bake sales, but my daughters still see me working hard."

Amy, 42, Detroit

  • Mom's occupation: Many; her first job was as a receptionist at a kitchen design shop; she worked her way up to designing kitchens. When she was 50 she got a masters in Information Systems, but I was already an adult when she did that.
  • Hours worked per week: 40.
  • What Amy is doing now: Writing and pursuing a masters in social work.
  • How was school: Went to well-regarded all-girls Catholic school, accepted to every college I applied to, let's just not discuss my undergrad career, and currently in one of the top 10 MSW programs in the country.
  • How you felt about your mom working as a kid: "She was actually much happier when she worked and more fun. I remember loving to go visit her at work. I should add, too, that she was always really involved in the community before she went to work for pay, so I was used to tagging along while she ran off newsletters or had meetings. Her working absolutely influenced my desire to work after I had kids also -- and so far, like her, I get gloomy and fussy if my work is slow. I need both time with my kids and something just for me."
  • So are you a working mom or a stay-at-home mom: Kind of both? I work at home so I do a lot of the SAHM stuff but also have deadlines and bosses.

Sara, 36, Ohio

  • Mom's occupation: Supervising ticket agent for American Airlines.
  • Hours worked per week: 40+.
  • What Sara is doing now: I'm the marketing director for the country's largest independent digital marketing agency.
  • How was school: I graduated from private school, went to American University where I studied marketing and art history, and eventually to Ohio State for my MBA.
  • How you felt about your mom working as a kid: "I loved that my mom worked. I get like you could have it all -- family, career, etc. She came to the important stuff like school plays and games and made it seem easy. I now reflect on how hard it must have been given that she was really pioneer for full-time moms. It made me strive harder and reach further knowing that if she could do it, I can do it."
  • So are you a working mom or a stay-at-home mom: “I work full time.”

Ilicia Strasser, 37, Wilmington, DE

  • Mom's occupation: Small business owner-and teacher as well as part-time associate at Talbots (later in life)
  • Hours worked per week: 40
  • What Ilicia is doing now: SAHM
  • How was school: I did well in school all the way through and went on to grad school at Emerson after attending URI.
  • How you felt about your mom working as a kid: "I was a ‘latch-key kid.’ I don't even think kids are allowed to do that anymore. From a very young age my brother and I either went to daycare or had a nanny -- we always had to carpool with other families to activities, Hebrew etc. Growing up in a small town my mom was not far, she just was not home. My dad worked a lot. That being said my mom was always at all sporting events, etc. I wish that my mom had been more available but I'm very happy today that mom was always an independent strong women-she was a great role model."
  • So are you a working mom or a stay-at-home mom: I am home with my children as we live in an area where we are on our own and childcare is very expensive.

It seems like everyone's experience is a little different, no? For the record, none of these women is obese or lonely or unable to have children because of scarring. How about we moms get off each other's backs? And to working moms: Stop feeling so guilty! Everything will turn out just fine. 

Did your mom work or stay home? How did this affect you?


Image via Wickerfurniture/Flickr



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UgtaB... UgtaBkdnMe

You found 5 women who all agree, how unbiased of you.

My mom and dad worked, all the time. No one was at my ball games, I got myself up and ready for school, I came home to an empty house. It sucked. My mom was the director of a large psychiatric hospital she was never home. On her "down time" she finished her PhD. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who wish they had a full time mother, I sure do.

I chose to give up my career after my daughter was born. I've been a SAHM for over 7 years, I have two kids and one on the way. I also have a degree, and have never been to jail. I don't think working moms deserve to be bashed, but I do think it's best to stay home. I don't even see how anyone could say differently. Some people have to work, that's understandable but chosing to work is nuts IMO

Your article is crap, and biased.

puasa... puasaurusrex

My mom stayed home with us, occasionally have part time jobs when we started school. I'm a stay at home currently, but had to work the first year of my daughter's life (quit two days before her first birthday). My mother babysat and I feel it gave my daughter a wonderful relationship with her and my mom's busy schedule allowed my daughter to adjust extremely easy to change. I'm currently pregnant with my third and in school to get my teaching degree. Once all that is done, I'll begin teaching, my daughter and son will be in school by then, and my youngest will be in preschool, so long as I time it perfectly and don't graduate too early. I want my daughters to know that they always have a choice, but they also need to have a skill to allow them to care for their families in case something happens. That's what my mother always drove into my head.

Em Chappell-Root

She also found five women with white collar jobs, who are all 35 or older. Sort of a lack of varience there for a true answer across various demographics.


nonmember avatar nicky

Uh yeah. Nice jobs! I bet it's different when you can afford to send your kid to a great daycare or school. What about those who have to go to shitty ones. Also just because you went to NYU or are a doctor or lawyer doesn't mean you're happy or whatever.

My mom stayed at home and I'm so grateful. I could never imagine leaving my infant in someone else's hands and I feel sorry for moms that do be it necessity or choice.

nonmember avatar Estella

I'm happy my mother stayed at home with my brothers and me, but I was always hyper-aware of the havoc it caused her internally. I wouldn't say she felt like she was somewhat wasting her talents (she is a great mum; I can only hope to be even half as awesome as she), but you could tell she was somewhat bored with her experience at home and craved using her brain and all it was trained for. She was an auditor and worked with the FBI and NASA. My father was and still is the VP of HR at a private hospital in the northeast. We were very lucky that she never "needed" to work, but as soon as the three of us were enrolled in school and sports 8-10 hours a day, she returned to working and was immensely more satisfied with the entire package of her life. It takes all kinds, and though great sacrifice comes with having children, I think it's important to remember that not all women choose to shed their identities and take on the singular role of "Mum" and that that is fine. I know we "can't have it all," but for some, teaching 30 hours a week and coaching a girls soccer team or working 40 hours a week at a small company etc... is a totally feasible career and family balance. We're not talking jet-setting here. Children are not the only ingredient to a fulfilling life.

Rosas... RosasMummy

There is no one answer to this question. My daughter absolutely loves nursery and benefits from it so much, I would go crazy if I had to be home all the time and be mum 24/7. I need to have that thing that's for me and some variance in my life. for some mothers and some children our dynamic would not work, we don't all need to fit the same mould! Case closed IMO

nonmember avatar Theresa

No one needs nor asked for your sympathy, Nicky. Least of all myself or my children, the eldest of whom just started freshman year at Columbia. Circumstances aren't the same for everyone. You can't make sweeping judgements of another person's child-rearing simply because you wouldn't choose it. If your children are happy and healthy then you've made the right choice whether that means working or staying home. Not every child of working moms turns out messed up just like not every child of stay at home moms turn out to be a surgeon or rocket scientist.

nonmember avatar Theresa

Btw, there is nothing nuts about choosing to put an education to use by choice, even if you are a mother. A babysitter does't "raise your child" any more than an elementary school teacher does. My grandmother stayed home, my mom worked, and I have an awesome career that I wouldn't trade in even if my husband was a billionaire. All three of us did a damn good job raising our children.

nonmember avatar Cee

Lot of judgement coming from the SAHM community. Women are not all baby vessels that quit their life goals to raise children. All these SAHM mom that are judging women that chose to purse careers are only speaking from an insecure part of their mind that is trying to convince themselves that they made the right choice of centering their whole life around a child and never living up to other potentials aside from changing dirty diapers.

runne... runnergirl888

I stayed at home with my daughter for the first year because my husband was deployed. Go ahead and judge all you want, I adore my daughter, but I am much happier being a full time working mom. My mom worked two jobs while my sister and I were growing up, and she never missed anything that was important to us. She was at every single ballet recital, every track meet...and so was my dad. But of course, we just like to pick on the working moms, not the fact that a majority of dads work outside of the home. And for the record, I'm 26, have never been to jail, am in very good shape, no asthma, and graduated with honors from a good university. How about we try something novel and just figure if someone's kid is happy and healthy, then we should just mind our own business...

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