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Harvard Study: Kids of Working Moms Grow Up Just as Happy as Stay-At-Home Moms

To work or not to work? Harvard happiness study will instantly make all moms feel better.

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It's one of the first questions that many expecting women will grapple with. And there's no simple answer.

When maternity leave ends -- that is, if your company even offers it -- will you go back to work?

Even if you're a top performer at work, you might consider quitting. It's not uplifting news that every child a woman has cuts 4 percent from her earnings (while dads' earnings increase 6 percent.)

There's more than pregnancy discrimination, finances and your career to consider. There's mom guilt, too. Will time away during your child's most formative years affect them as adults?

You can stop worrying. A Harvard researcher studied the happiness of kids of working moms compared to stay-at-home moms. She found they end up just as happy as adults as the children of moms who stayed home.

Kids of stay-at-home moms grow up to be happy, too. All told, it's not better or worse for your child's eventual happiness if you work or not.

"People still have this belief that when moms are employed, it's somehow detrimental to their children," says Harvard Business School Professor Kathleen McGinn, who led the groundbreaking study. "So our finding that maternal employment doesn't affect kids' happiness in adulthood is really important."

These recent results are part of a larger study that McGinn has been conducting about how working motherhood affects children. McGinn and her research team compared two international surveys that were conducted over the course of 10 years. 100,000 men and women across 29 countries participated and answered questions about the effects of working moms on their adult children.

In 2015, she released the first wave of results that found daughters of working moms tend to make more money as adults. McGinn's survey found daughters of employed moms earned an average of $1,880 more per year than daughters of full-time work-from-home moms.

Moms who work positively impact their sons, too. The sons of working moms tend to have more equal gender views, tend to marry partners who also work and spend an extra 50 minutes each week caring for family members.

In the surveys, both daughters and sons were asked about their overall life satisfaction. Whether their moms stayed at home or worked, all reported being just as happy. Yet women are still socialized to believe they are hurting their children by going to work. McGinn says she hopes these latest finding will help ease that guilt. "As we gradually understand that our children aren't suffering, I hope the guilt will go away."

by Betsy Mikel


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