Working Mothers Make For More Gender Equal Households, Study Shows, So Basically Everybody Wins
No matter how far feminism has come in the past decades, the decision to work instead of staying home with children is almost exclusively left up to mothers, with the implicit expectation that the father will remain at his job. No matter how difficult it may be to drop off a child at daycare every day, though, there is a silver lining: according to a recent study, working mothers make for more gender-equal households. You'd think that the mommy wars would be over by now, but judging from the prevalence of thinkpieces pondering whether mothers are failing their children by keeping their jobs, as well as the fact that 41 percent of Americans believe it's bad for society, they're still going strong. To be fair, it's a difficult subject to quantify in terms of scientific research, but it's also an inherently sexist question to ask. (Not that science isn't already chock full of that kind of thing.) Studies have shown in the past that children do better with more parental interaction, but new research from Harvard University shows that the daughters of working mothers tend to be more educated, hold higher positions in their places of work, and earn more money than girls whose mothers stayed at home, Jezebel reports.
The study, which surveyed more than 50,000 adults across the globe, reported that the careers of male children weren't affected either way, but this is most likely because men are expected to work anyway. They were influenced in another area, however: the home. On average, sons of working mothers in the United States spent seven and a half more hours on childcare and 25 more minutes on housework per week in comparison to the sons of stay-at-home moms. This is hugely important when you consider that in the United States, housework is still almost universally considered primarily a woman's job. Women may spend less time on chores now than they did in the 20th century, but the brunt of housework still falls on mothers even if they have their own careers.
"This is as close to a silver bullet as you can find in terms of helping reduce gender inequalities, both in the workplace and at home," Harvard Business School professor Kathleen McGinn told the New York Times. On the other hand, she also pointed out that a mother's decision to stay home isn't going to ruin a child's life any more than if she decided to work. "We found that most people believe the right decision for a family is the one that works best for them," she said. As the New York Times points out, Harvard's study adds to an increasing amount of evidence showing that parental attitudes toward gender roles are vital in shaping children's attitudes toward gender equality later in life. Hopefully it also reflects a shift away from the "how are women ruining their children's lives??" line of research and toward questions that don't add to the guilt many working mothers seem to feel. I'll let Leslie Knope sum it up for us:
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