As I've previously written, the research is clear that in most situations, staying at home beyond the first few months, doesn't help the child. (I append a list of references at the end of this article.)
Beyond the research, logic makes clear that in many cases, the child, the mom, the domestic partner, the workplace, and the larger society are better served when moms work full-time on remunerative work.
Benefits to the child
The working mom's child is less likely to be self-absorbed, with a sense of entitlement, because Helicopter Mom is not 24/7, hovering at Junior's beck and call.
Compared with a working mom, a smaller percentage of a stay-at-home mom's interaction with her child is likely to be quality time. If you've worked outside the home all day, you're more likely to be glad to see your child, really pay attention, patiently teach your child, and simply enjoy him or her, which your child can feel. If you've been with your child 24/7, you may not be as positive or present.
The working mom's child is more likely to become self-efficacious. As I mentioned, stay-at-home moms tend to be helicopter moms, hovering, ostensibly to protect the child but often veering into overprotection. Why would stay-at-home moms be more likely to be overprotective than working moms? Because they don't have a worklife to provide additional meaning to their life, they may be bored and/or want to justify the usually cushier life that stay-at-home moms have--more flexible schedules, time during the day for some pleasure, no long commute to face not-particularly-meaningful and/or difficult work, nor a fire-breathing boss seething, "Where's that report!"
The working mom's child is also more likely to benefit because the child gets to see a role model of a person who can, beyond being a housewife, also earn money and be productive outside domestic tasks--even if it's just, for example, as a bill processor. Even that mundane job is of real value--helping ensure that people pay and receive what is fair.
Finally, the working mom is a more interesting person to her child than the stay-at-home mom because mom has seen more of the world than just the four-walls of her home, the play group, the lunch at the mall with a friend, etc.
Benefits to the working mom
Many stay-at-home moms admit that staying home "turns my brain to mush." Working outside the home helps keep you vibrant.
Stay-at-home moms have no income power, which cedes too much control to her domestic partner. That partner appropriately claims more control of what gets spent. And if the partner leaves, the stay-at-home mom has the Herculean task of trying to convince employers that a resume whose most impressive feature is volunteering for the PTA should be hired over the dozens or hundreds of applicants who have a more substantive work history.
The working mom also benefits because she feels more productive. Because, per the above, it's very likely that your child will be no worse if you go to work, stay-at-home moms, in the privacy of their thoughts (if they'll allow themselves to be honest with themselves) realize they've not only not been productive, not making a contribution to society, they've been parasites--relying on someone else to take care of them, even though they're able-bodied, compus-mentus adults. If there were two clones of me lying on my deathbed--one who was a stay-at-home mom, the other who was a working mom--I know I'd feel better about myself knowing I had been productive beyond being a mother and housekeeper.
Benefits to the domestic partner
The working mom's domestic partner benefits because, especially if there's a child or three, it's ever more difficult to make ends meet on one income. The working mom reduces the terrible stress that sole breadwinners often experience. It's well acknowledged that stress kills and so if a domestic partner truly loves her partner and doesn't just say so, working on a remunerative job may well save his or her life. Also if a mom is working, that gives her partner a greater chance of choosing a career based not so heavily on how much money it will earn but also on whether it's rewarding. So many of the most rewarding careers (for example, those in the arts) pay poorly so the partners of stay-at-home moms are forced to forgo them in favor of more remunerative but often less fulfilling jobs, for example, in sales, advertising, insurance, accounting, plumbing, finance, heavy industry, etc.
Benefits to the workplace
The workplace benefits because better-quality work gets done when employers can hire from a larger pool. Would-be stay-at-home moms can add immeasurably to the workplace.
Benefits to society
Society as a whole benefits when moms work. The products and services we buy are better when employers can hire from the full pool of people, including would-be stay-at-home moms. Also, because moms, on average, feel better about themselves when working outside the home, they're psychologically healthier and thus more likely to treat themselves and others well.
The need for expanded, excellent child care
I want to stress that I believe it is a joint parent/employer/government responsibility to provide excellent child care. That would be a far wiser user of ObamaDollars than propping up GM, Chrysler/Fiat, irresponsible banks, and people who took on more mortgage or credit-card debt than they could afford.
In sum, on this Mothers Day, I want to salute the millions of working mothers and exhort those stay-at-home moms who think their child and they will be better off if they stay at home to reread this article and consider joining us in the workplace: you, your child, your domestic partner, the workplace, and society as a whole will likely be the better for it.
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Here are the research studies I found on the question of whether it's wiser for moms to stay at home or become a working mom.
A study titlted Caring and Counting by Tracey Reynolds, Claire Callender and Rosalind Edwards found that "the mother's work had a positive impact on their family relationships. The mother's employment provided skills and resources that meant they could meet their children's emotional, developmental and material needs better. Their relationship with their partner was enhanced because they shared the financial burden of providing for their family and had more common interests."
The book, Ask The Children, is based on in-depth interviews with 600 parents and more than 1,000 children in the third through twelfth grades from diverse backgrounds. It found that "having a working mother is not predictive of how children assess their mothers' parenting skills, based on a number of attributes strongly linked to children's healthy development and school success. These include 'being someone I can go to when I am upset' and 'knowing what is really going on in my life.'" This study's results were reported to the public in a cover story in Working Mother magazine called "Hey Moms, Drop the Guilt!" Its core assertion: millions of children with working moms do just fine. What counts most is quality time: reasonably consistent, loving, limit-setting but not punitive parenting, even if it begins after the workday.
Here are links to additional research indicating that, if anything, kids and moms benefit when mom works outside the home: