herald

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Working mums like me can have it all, and our kids will be ok too

Have you noticed that the latest trend in career women talks and articles?

It seem everyone is OK with telling women they can't have it all.

Or at least they can't have it all at the same time?

Female political and corporate leaders across a range of areas have been quoted saying the notion is a pipedream. For example the CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, said 'having it all' was an illusion that comes with painful sacrifices and compromises.

Comments like this are deeply depressing and negative. The real problem is the fact that people expect women to do it all. To do everything.

This certainly isn't expected of men. If 'having it all' means you want a career and children, well I do and I can 'have it all'. I'm a mother to two happy, healthy children and work full-time.

Sure, I rarely travel for work nor am I the CEO of PepsiCo. And while I admire Indra for being honest, every woman and their circumstances are different.

Recent research has given working women a much needed break. A study by Silvia Mendolia, an economics professor at Australia's University of Wollongong, found that a high number of hours spent working by a mother makes it no less likely that their children will suffer below par levels of psychological well-being.

Mendolia also found that working mothers don't necessarily spend less time with their teenage children.

Maybe it's that they spend less time on housework then? Or maybe they organise their jobs or schedules around family life?

Nowadays, men are much more involved in childcare so I guess there's more face time there too.

The average mother still spends more time with her children than the average father, though.

I have no doubt some stay-at-home mothers are rolling their eyes at this research, believing working mothers are convincing themselves that their children are better off in the hands of an exhausted minimum wage crèche worker, rather than their own. That's not the case actually.

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Because this latest study is not the first of its kind.

Professor Heather Joshi's research at the University of London last year showed that there is zero effect on the children of working mothers' cognitive and literacy scores, or on their emotions and behaviour.

Mothers will still be torn by guilt and the sheer emotional wrench of leaving small children to go out to work, but at least now we know we're not doing them any harm.

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