It’s time to stop feeling guilty about being a working mom. Here are some very good reasons why!

Working mothers take note: Harvard Business Professor Kathleen McGinn says children do benefit from having working mothers. And she’s done a research study to back it up. McGinn and her fellow researchers analysed data on more than 100 000 men and women to determine what effect a mother’s employment status has on her children. The research showed that daughters raised in homes with working mothers were more likely to have successful careers when they were older. In addition, the sons of working mothers were more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members.

So if you’re still feeling guilty about missing out on the occasional netball game or kids having to catch the bus home, stop right there – here are some more of the benefits of having a working mom.

Increased independence

‘Both my parents had jobs,’ says Storm (32), who’s currently a stay-at-home mom. ‘In fact, my mom earned more so she was the main breadwinner. Because they both worked, they were less involved in my day-to-day life, so I walked or caught the bus home from school and I always made my own lunch. As a kid and teenager, I really enjoyed this independence and it shaped me into the independent adult I am today.’

Daughters raised in homes with working moms were more likely to have successful careers.

Freedom from gender stereotypes
‘We live in a society where it’s assumed that men should be the financial providers who work outside of the home while women should be nurturers who maintain the home,’ says social psychologist Dr Monique Huysamen. ‘Growing up with a working mother who is a positive role model could challenge these assumptions, allowing children to develop a less rigid and limited understanding of gender. This might allow children to imagine broader possibilities for what they can and want to be when they are older.’

Copywriter Dylan (31) agrees with this. ‘Both my mom and my grandmother worked my entire life,’ he says, ‘so I was always surrounded by fierce and independent women. The idea that dads work and moms stay at home is a completely foreign concept to me. I cannot imagine being in a relationship where I expect my partner to give up her career or do the majority of the housework just because she’s a woman.’

Valuable quality time

‘My mother worked full time,’ says Callen (29), a visual merchandiser. ‘This meant that when we did spend time together I cherished every moment. She always went out of her way to make sure our weekends were special so I felt that I got the best side of her when she was there.’

Less financial worry
‘I had a working mom and I am a working mom with a partner who works too,’ says project manager Jenna (29). ‘I often think about how lucky my little girl is because we have two incomes. Having a child is expensive, but we can take holidays and we don’t need to stress about day-care fees. I’m happy to split the working load with my partner; everyone benefits.’

It’s also deeper than that, says Dr Huysamen. ‘South Africa has one of the highest rates of intimate-partner violence in the world. Much research shows that women who are financially dependent on their partners are less likely to be able to get themselves and their kids out of abusive situations.’ This is a really good reason for mothers to have financial independence.

We spoke to five working moms about the things that they feel most guilty about (chances are good that these are the same things you feel remorseful about) and then asked Melissa de Beer, a clinical psychologist who focuses on family issues, for advice on how to overcome the problem.

I feel guilty when I miss my son’s weekday soccer matches. I’m wrecked even further when he talks about his friends’ moms (who don’t work) being there to watch their game.– Bongi Khumalo, mom of an eight-year-old son

‘Plan special fun activities on the weekends with your kids,' is de Beer's advice. She adds that when you are feeling guilty during the week about missing a game,
it’s important that you remind yourself (and your child) that you have that special time coming up. ‘Do not feel guilty about the activities you cannot attend; put all your energy into the ones that you can – which will leave a greater impact anyway.’

I feel guilty when I need to work late or have to leave early for meetings. And then feel guilty about being a bad employee because I’m thinking about my children instead of the project at hand.– Carla Visser, mom of a 12-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl

Here, again, it's important for moms to plan fun family activities to do over the weekend. ‘Make sure that you're present when spending time with your kids, and spend one-on-one time with each of your children. Even though your time with your family may feel brief, they will know and feel that you spend quality time with them when you are with them,' advises de Beer. She adds that this will also help working moms stay more focused at work, knowing that you made the most of your weekends with your family.

I feel guilty whenever my daughters are sick and I don’t have anyone to look after them – I’m torn between sending them to school because I need to work and staying home with them because they need to get better.– Yolanda Sithole, mom of daughters aged four, seven and nine

Moms like Yolanda are not alone – all working mothers struggle with this. ‘Plan in advance,' says Dr de Beer, ‘so that when your child does get sick, you have a way forward: whether it's lining up a grandparent, aunt or babysitter, or arranging with your boss that you can work from home should your child get sick.’

I feel guilty about spending hours planning and then cooking healthy meals (which is essential to their growth) when I could be spending more time with my two sons. – Kelly Fouché, who has three- and six-year-old sons

Dr de Beer suggests getting your children involved in the cooking process. ‘No matter how big or small they are, there's always something they can help with – from creating the menu to helping with the shopping and the preparation.' Giving them small tasks that they are capable of doing will make small kids feel special. For instance, smaller kids can wash veggies and older ones can peel and chop them.

I feel guilty about leaving my sons at crèche – it sometimes feels that they like their teachers more than me!– Tamara Carter, mom of two boys aged three and five

The key here, says de Beer, is to focus on your children actually being happy at the school or crèche that they are at. ‘It should give you peace of mind to know that your children have a good relationship with their teachers and that they are well looked after when you are at work,' she says. De Beer adds that moms can combat their guilty feelings by scheduling in story time with their kids in the evenings – where your children can tell you all about their day. ‘This is a great way for parents to feel part of those aspects they feel they might have missed while at work.’

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