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Do Working Moms Raise Healthier Kids?

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Do Working Moms Raise Healthier Kids?

If you’re a working mother like me, you may have noticed a few raised eyebrows from time to time. I was only five weeks postpartum when I had to go back to my work as an OB/GYN physician, and you’d have thought I had murdered my infant the way some women looked at me. (“How dare she? How selfish of her. But just wait – that child will be totally messed up one day.”)

Here I am, five years later, raising a perfectly healthy, happy, secure, loving, confident daughter. And according to a recent study, I’m not the only working mother raising a well-adjusted child. The study set out to examine often touted theories that children raised by families with two working parents exhibit more bad behavior and that working mothers are more likely to raise overweight children. What they found can let all of us working parents breathe a sigh of relief.

As it turns out, not only do working moms not harm their children. The evidence suggests that they’re actually better off when both parents work!

I’ll never forget leaving my then four-year old daughter at the airport when I was heading off on my book tour. She was sobbing. I was sobbing. My husband was trying to pry the two of us apart, and my heart felt like it was breaking. We reunited a week and a half later in Boston, and then I had to go back on the road without her for another week. I called her soon afterwards and she said, “Mommy, I’ve been crying for three days (I had just left an hour earlier.) I thought for sure I was doing permanent damage to my child, and I seriously wondered if pursuing my own dreams were worth it.

A little secret

Then, a few months later, the daughter of a very famous female author came to stay in my guest house. She is one of the most charming, beautiful, witty, smart, healthy, well-adjusted, twenty-somethings I know, and her mother spent the better part of her childhood jetting off for repeat appearances on Oprah while her daughter cried at airports. So when my daughter asked me to come play with her and I had to say no because I was about to lead a teleseminar, I breathed a sigh of relief when the daughter of this famous author leaned into Siena and said, “Darling, let me let you in on a little secret. I know how you feel, but I promise – everything’s gonna work out just fine.”

This daughter with the famous mother told me that it was hard when she was young. She sometimes wished her mother would stay home and bake cupcakes like the rest of the mothers. But as she grew older, she came to not only tolerate but appreciate the role model her mother has been in her life.  As working mothers, we may have to pry our baby’s arms off our necks or wind up pumping – or weaning – because we just can’t keep nursing or miss the occasional school festival because we have a board meeting. But we offer up a potent message to both our sons and our daughters. Women have dreams too. Moms have something to offer the world outside the home. And when it comes time to have their own children, they will remember that their mother worked, pursued her dreams, and served out her life purpose, and they (and their wives) can feel free to do the same.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities - HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

32 comments

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5:26PM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Moms who listen to their kids, who raise them to be independent, who let them know that they are OK no matter what size, color, or gender (even i they change it) are good moms. Working or not doesn't matter. You don't have to give into every wish but you have to be available and listen even if you don't like what you are hearing. You don't always have to give in but you have to listen and set limits when necessary. Being a mother is not easy but it is wonderful and important. I am the mother of an almost 25 year old. I worked and I was lucky because once she got to 4 years old she settled right down. I made sure I would not be like my parents who thought I was weird and incapable. They never wanted to hear my problems and I never told them any. Whether I was working in or out of my home these are the things I need to not do. Children just need someone to be there for them and just because you are one or the other does not make for a good or bad parent. It's what you give your children when you are together.

12:00PM PST on Dec 7, 2011

You have to do what's right for you. If you aren't happy, then your kids won't truly be happy either.
I've been a single working mom, a stay-at-home mom, and am now a work-at-home, homeschooling mom. I also continue my own education & have several hobbies, because I need that for me. I am a mother, but that is not all that I am. Some of us need something in addition to being a mom. We love our kids & family and want to take care of them, but that also means we need to take care of us. Some of us simply need more than being mom & wife. We are expected to drop everything to raise our children - career, social life, education, dreams, everything. The fathers aren't expected to do that, just the mothers. We're told that we should be completely fulfilled to cook, clean, and care for the kids, that we shouldn't need to make a financial contribution to our family or have any dreams of our own. We are to be caretakers and that is all. That is who & what we are.

If that is what makes you happy, then great, do that. However, some of us need to be more than mom. I homeschool my kids because it's what's best for them, but that doesn't mean I should have to give up my dreams & interests. When I was a single working mom, my daughter was happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. I did everything I could to give her stability. I spent every moment I wasn't at work with her. We read books, played games, went to the park, etc. I cooked homemade meals every day. She is not any

7:41PM PST on Dec 6, 2011

Working parents give their children confidence and independence. This doesn't mean working parents shouldn't spend time with their child, take care of, love them, enjoy them, play with them. A working parent can and does all of these things, but he/she also expects the child to take care of many things on his/her own. I was a mother who would have gone crazy if I had been with my children 24/7; my children would have suffered. When I came home from my job, I spent time with my daughters. I helped them with their homework; we played outside; we read together; they helped me fix supper. We did lots of things; I enjoyed it; they knew I enjoyed it. As a result, I am going to brag about my daughters; one is a doctor at Mayo, and the other is an environmental planner for Kansas. They are doing fine, and my doctor is working part time and raising two little boys. One more thing, I believe all mothers are working mothers; some just do it outside the home for eight or more hours a day.

9:20AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

I wish my husband and I could both work 3/4th time. Kids need time with their fathers too.

1:36AM PST on Dec 5, 2011

I'm not a mom, so-of course-I dont know what it means to be a mom, and how you feel deep down, but I've noticed the excessive amount of guilt that working moms have EVEN WHEN everyone around them tries to help them and be supportive, but I guess they feel bad about staying away from their child.
Again, I'm not a mom, but I dont think its about how long you stay at home or how many meals you cook; its about your attitude, emotions, love etc. I know stay at home moms who are there like 24/7 but dont really connect with their kids or get them, and on the other hand, there are working moms who use their time cleverly and try their best to develope the healthiest, most fulfilling relationship with their kids.

4:01PM PST on Dec 4, 2011

I'm the daughter of a working mother, and now I'm a working mother myself. I can relate.
I smiled when I read the words of wisdom from the grown-up daughter of a working mother: ''everything’s gonna work out just fine'' Because, yes, it DOES get better for kids of working moms.
Yes, I'm proud of my mom, for things she did both at home, and at work. She was a teacher, and a very good one. Today, I still meet people who tell me how she got them interested in geography, even if she retired over 20 years ago. I hope my son and daughters can be proud of me as I am of her.

I think it's great that many women are happy and fulfilled staying at home for their kids. I don't like it when they say it's the only way to raise kids, but what can I do? All I hope is that stay-at-home mothers don't convey the message that you ''have to sacrifice your career if you truly love your kids and want to raise them properly''. There are many downsides to this rhetoric: girls feel they have to choose between career and family, and boys grow up to expect their wife to do all the cooking and house work, even if she works, because that's what women should do, right?

11:20AM PST on Dec 4, 2011

Great post.

9:20AM PST on Dec 4, 2011

Well, maybe I shouldn't say anything because I don't have any kids of my own and I already adore Lissa Rankin, but my experience was that having my mom around only did more damage as I grew up. I wish she would have spent more time taking care of herself. Whether a mother stays at home or not, she should always honor and take care of herself in order to set an example for her children. Sacrificing yourself all the time for your kids only teaches them that they will have to sacrifice themselves for someone else some day. And that's just not a healthy message. I find it difficult to make my health and well-being a priority and I think it's because I watched my mom devalue herself for years and spend time on anything other than self-care.

2:12PM PST on Dec 2, 2011

no... o.O I think moms should stay home the first few years for the sake of the child, what's the point of having them if you're not there for them? my mom stayed home with me until I got older.

8:27AM PST on Dec 2, 2011

As a mother of 6grown & married now children & with 6 grandchildren now I can appreciate your article BUT-its more of a guilt relief than REAL I think. You neglacted to offer how your child might feel when needs to be home because of illness & "no-one" there for them, or need help with homework (NOT the schools job!) or just needs you to talk to-NOT to mention learning things a "mother&housewife" should know. Ive found that children today do NOT know what "real" food tasts like-or how to cook it! That cooking is an essential part of surviva lin tough economy, & in saving money!!! That struggling sometimes isnt always so BAD-it brings you together & makes you stronger. It seems that the articles author obviously is young & not a mother-First steps,first words,teeth,haircuts, etc. are NOT replacable-& a video is NOT the same. I gave up alot to have/and care for my children & have no regrets. I'm sooothankful I did. I see yung parent(s) today stressed, out late at Walmart when the kids should be home in bed,or far a nap .Kids are not getting enough sleep & its showing up in their health. They are NOT emotionally involved with "family"-they're there, but not really all there. I feel as you can tell You really missed the point-It is not the same as being home. Some people just arent parents & if you cant give up a job for your kid, you shouldnt haave any. Nothing can replace the "TIME" you spend with them. I've seen it all-he

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