A new study finally proves that working mothers are actually assets to a business, not liabilities.
If you ask any working mother with babies or young kids, she’ll probably tell you that she feels like she’s failing in all of her roles—tired and checked out at the office, distracted and over-extended at home. She may not feel like she’s giving the 110% she used to at work. She may leave earlier than before she had kids. She may have stopped going that extra mile. At the same time though, she wishes she could be there more for her children, make it to a baseball game, pick them up from school.
Unfortunately, working mothers are often spread so thin that they don’t feel like they’re able to give it their all in any area. But according to a new study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, moms with two or more kids are actually more productive than their peers. Yep, more productive employees, despite the fact that they leave before 6pm. Despite the fact that work is probably not their priority. Despite the fact that their mind is often elsewhere.
To that, I say, well, duh! I’m a work-from-home mom of 3-year-old twins, so I constantly feel like I’m just flailing from computer to breakfast table to preschool drop-off. And I don’t even go to an office. Still, even though I may feel all “eek, ack,” I take care of my business. I never miss a deadline. I get it done, and try to do it well.
Although full-time working moms may be hard on themselves, I do believe that they’re probably still doing stellar jobs, in all arenas. Working longer hours and throwing yourself into a constant state of “busyness,” while indicative of energy expended and commitment, aren’t really markers of a job well done. In fact, I think motherhood actually teaches women the skills they need to be more efficient, productive employees.
For example, multi-tasking. Anyone who has ever managed to feed and clothe a baby, as well as themselves, pack a diaper bag, and then make it out the door, is a skilled juggler and an expert planner, in my book. A woman with two or more kids manages the schedules of multiple little ones, coordinating pick-ups, playdates, school meetings, birthday parties. She’s got a lot of balls in the air, most of which she’s actually able to catch. That’s someone you want on your team.
To that end, a mom also learns how to be flexible, to roll with the punches, to change course. Once you have kids, you realize just how much the world is out of your control, and you learn to adapt…quickly. This ability to think on your feet is an asset in any workplace where last-minute issues constantly come up.
Also, I think motherhood teaches women about time management and efficiency. Does she really want to spend 20 minutes scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed and reading yet one more blog post when she could plow through her workload and get home before bathtime? Her children are her priority, but she still has a job to do—she may just be able to get the same job done, in less time.
Finally, I believe that motherhood gives women more of a sense of responsibility, more determination. Most women work full-time because they need the income, there’s no choice in the matter. Having little mouths to feed fuels their effort, gives them even more reason to reach higher, do more, and give their kids the best that they can. Being a mom forces you to take ownership of your life, to grab the wheel and steer the ship. You’re the captain.
Now, all of that being said, the study did say that having young children really does take a toll on a woman’s productivity. That there can be more than a 20% drop in output while kids are still little. That time is short though in a long career, and ultimately, that balances out, making working moms even more efficient than their peers. Also, the study only took into account highly skilled workers, who likely had planned pregnancies and are able to afford childcare. It’s probably a different story for low-income mothers, although I would argue that the same super-skills still apply, even if their productivity isn’t quantifiable.
Regardless, I think this study is a “hallelujah” moment for women in the workplace. Finally, there is some proof that working mothers are actually assets to a business, not liabilities. There’s proof that motherhood doesn’t cause women to lose their edge—it gives them an advantage, a skill set you can’t learn by just grinding away at the office.
What this study says (and hopefully, there will be more like it), is that women don’t have to choose either/or when it comes to work and family. Women don’t have to take a hit in one area of their lives in order to thrive in another. Women can be both nurturing caregivers and workplace machines. Now, we just need businesses to acknowledge it and maybe then…dare I say it…women really can have it all.
Jennifer Benjamin is an LA-based freelance writer and editor with over thirteen years of experience writing for national magazines and websites like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, SELF, Parents Magazine, The Stir and Daily Glow. More important, she’s a Mommy to identical twin boys, as well as an avid cook, a terrible housewife, and a loungewear enthusiast. Find her on Twitter @JennyBenjamin or Facebook.