The media spin around working mums

Journalists have been feasting on the Harvard Business School research which found that daughters of working mothers are “higher achieving” than daughters of stay at home mothers.

It was quite telling how many of my peers (all working women) shared this story on Facebook and Twitter. Clearly they saw this study as vindication. As someone who has been a full time working mum for 2 years and a stay at home mum for the past 8 months, I found the headlines most unhelpful.

Kathleen L. McGinn has a one dimensional view of what achievement looks like…i.e a supervisory role, working more hours, earning 4% more than daughters of non-working mothers. Is that it? There are plenty of other ways to measure success – emotional wellbeing, ability to build relationships, good health and interests outside work.

Of course the media latched onto this to cynically drive another wedge between the mothers that work and the mothers that don’t, this time leaving stay at home mums feeling inadequately equipped to send their daughters into the workplace.

I’m going to cut Kathleen a bit of slack because the research does go beyond the headline grabbing topic and summarises with a call to arms to the policy makers and business owners that gender inequality at work will erode overtime and we’re due some changes.

“We hope the findings from our research will promote respect for the spectrum of choices women and men make at home and at work. Whether Moms or Dads stay at home or are employed, part time or full time, children benefit from exposure to role models offering a wide set of alternatives for leading rich and rewarding lives.”

In conclusion, Kathleen is asking everyone to just chill the f**k out and accept that every family has a different set of needs, so embrace the diversity and stop punishing ourselves and one another.

Come on people, it’s 2015, the US supreme court has just legalised gay marriage, a transgender woman made the cover of Vanity Fair and we are so close to nailing that hoverboard. We’ve come such a long way – so why is this ‘working mum’ debate still a thing?



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  • Anita Cleare says:

    The guilt and anxiety that many working mums feel makes it very tempting to latch on to positive messages that say ‘Look, research says you are doing the best thing for your children!’ Real life is more complex and we all have to make difficult judgements about how to spend our waking hours. And unfortunately no-one will ever be able to tell you that you made the right choices.

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