You get up early and you go to bed late. You read to your kids at night and you deliver a presentation to coworkers during the day. You travel for your kids’ extracurricular activities and for your work trips. Your life is a constant juggling act between work and family. You get no breaks on the weekends, and you are so, so, so exhausted that you can rarely think straight. This has become the new norm for many working women.
More than 70 percent of American mothers with children under 18 are in the work force, balancing traditional family responsibilities with career aspirations. In fact, mothers are now the sole or primary income provider in 40 percent of households with children. While there will always be a percentage of women who need to work to help support their family, there are also many who choose to work simply because they enjoy it.
However, while more moms are trying to balance work and family than ever before, at least 1 in 4 women cry once a week due to the stress of “having it all,” according to a recent study done by Care.com. Many moms feel like they’re always falling behind. “From office meetings to the endless list of errands to the all-important role of raising kids, it’s no surprise that an overwhelming majority (80 percent) of moms feel stressed about getting everything done,” says Donna Levin, cofounder of Care.com. There’s also an emotional cost that comes with splitting time between work and family: Moms may not be the ones who help their child get ready for school. It may be harder to find opportunities to volunteer in their child’s classroom. Longer work hours may force some to miss out on after-school homework time or activities. These are just a few of the sacrifices that working moms make.
Although many feel “mom guilt,” a recent Harvard study reveals that a working mom offers substantial benefits to her kids. Women whose moms worked outside the home—whether it was just a few months a year or 60 hours a week—are “more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time,” the study reveals. Men whose moms worked outside the home were more likely to help out with household chores and spend more time caring for their family.
“There’s a lot of potential guilt about having both parents working outside the home. But what this research says to us is that not only are you helping your family economically—and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love—but you’re also helping your kids,” says Kathleen L. McGinn, the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who helped conduct the study.
If you’re a working mom, you are doing everything you can to provide financially and emotionally for your kids—and it does not go unnoticed. You are a positive role model for your children. They will automatically absorb lessons from how you engage both the world and your family.
This was the case with Blaire Knight-Graves, a 25-year-old woman from Chicago. “Watching my mother work as an adolescent was incredibly inspiring,” she shares with Forbes. “I saw her put herself through a Master’s and PhD program, all while maintaining a full-time job and working as a single mother. She taught me how to be dedicated, to have a passion for my own personal education, and how to communicate well with others in and out of the workplace. I am more successful because I saw my mother work.”
I, too, am grateful for my working mom. Growing up, while my dad worked full time on our dairy farm, my mom went back to work part time when I was just under a year old. Then she moved to full time when I was in elementary school. I watched her juggle work and dishes and cooking and volunteering and more while still finding time to spend with our family. I watched her get her master’s degree, driving more than three hours and back at least once a week to get to class. I watched her handle stress and commitments, family and friends. I now watch her balance her work with traveling throughout the Midwest to see her grandchildren, and I have no doubt that she’ll gladly add a regular stop to Chicago when I have my first child in April. As I join the group of working mothers, I pray that God will grant me the strength and energy that he has granted my mom and so many others who end up in the same situation.
Every day I work with many strong, capable working mothers who are using their God-given gifts for God’s glory. I see these women at my church. I see them in my neighborhood. I see them at the grocery store.
Rather than dwelling in “mom guilt,” embrace the truth that you are showing your kids what determination, ambition, and hard work look like. You’re showing them what balance, commitment, and loyalty look like. You are showing them an example of what it looks like to be a Christian woman living out God’s calling in her life. And that’s a lesson worth showing.