Stay-at-home versus working moms is only one of many battlefields in the Mommy Wars. Among the emotionally-fraught and endlessly self-righteous conflict, the New York Times Economix Blog has a reassuring message for the latter camp: Don’t Worry, Working Moms.
Test Results Higher For Children of Stay-At-Home Moms?
The Economix Blog reports that a recent study of the cognition of both children whose mothers returned to work before the kids were a year old and children whose mothers stayed at home with their infants revealed that overall, the children of stay-at-home mothers performed better. Why is this good news for working moms? Because the Columbia professors conducting the study (one of whom is a working mother herself), refused to believe that a mother returning to work is the only predictor of a child’s diminished cognitive abilities. And, lo and behold, they were right.
Quality, Not Quantity Makes the Difference
The professors found that ultimately, it isn’t the amount of time a mother spends at work or at home that determines her child’s success—it’s the quality of the time she spends while she is there. It turns out that maternal responsiveness and sensitivity make a greater impact on a child than the simple presence of a mother. Working moms who try to soothe a fussy baby, talk to a pre-verbal infant, and engage with a baby as she picks up a toy are doing more good for their children than stay-at-home mothers who plan a trip or balance the bills in the baby’s general proximity.
A Loving Mom is a Good Mom
Of course, we’re in no place to recommend that a mother stay home or return to work. It’s a highly personal (and often, financially-driven) decision, but another finding of the study is that families whose incomes were boosted by a working mother and were therefore able to enroll children in high-quality daycare and make education a priority benefitted their young children’s cognitive development. But whether working as a mother at home or away in an office, a loving mother cannot help but benefit her child. The research proves it.