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.