By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Do working mothers raise more successful daughters?
Even if daughters of working mothers do make more money, does that equate to a more successful life? - photo by Erin Stewart
I try not to fuel the Whos Doing Motherhood Better? debate that often rages between stay-at-home moms and working moms. For the most part, I believe all moms are giving motherhood every last ounce of love and energy they can and are doing what is best for their family in the moment.

But, I hate when I see headlines like this one that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed this week: Harvard researchers find working mothers have more successful daughters and conscientious sons.

Of course, I had to stop and read the article because that seemed like a pretty bold and groundbreaking statement. Working moms have more successful daughters? Maybe I should go back to work immediately! Ive done it all wrong!

But as I read, I realized quickly that this was once again a headline that didn't quite reflect what the article was about.

Heres what the study actually said: The daughters of working mothers in a research group were more likely to work themselves, earned 23 percent more than children of stay-at-home mothers and were more likely to have supervisory roles. The sons of working mothers were more likely to help with childcare at home.

So, more successful here is defined by this article as earning more money. I looked around to see how other media outlets had explained the study, which came out this summer.

Here are some of the descriptions I found:

Children of working moms grow up to be better adults, according to a new Harvard study. (New York Daily News)

Kids of working moms are better off. (CNN)

Harvard Study Finds Working Moms Have More Caring and Successful Children (

Talk about pushing an agenda.

I think the reason these headlines bothered me so much was that they took a fact daughters of working mothers earned more money and made assumptions that making more money equals success. It seems fairly obvious to me that girls raised by working mothers would be more likely to work outside the home.

But that doesnt mean those women are more successful or better off or better adults. What does being a better adult mean anyway? Is there some sort of award being given out for Best Adult? Am I disqualified because I spend a good portion of my day playing in forts and eating chicken nuggets? If anyone knows the rules of this ultra-selective better adult competition, please let me know. Id definitely be interested because there are days when I am super adulty and do things like go to the bank or use words like escrow and term life insurance. I could totally be a contender.

Seriously though, to these media outlets, being a successful adult boils down to making more money. Period.

And while that may be the highest priority for many people, it was not the top factor I considered when I thought about whether being a stay-at-home mother would make my children happier or more successful in life.

I considered things like who would be teaching them values? What would our relationship be like? Can we afford for me to stay home? Would I feel good about myself as a mother? What is my priority right now? Do I want to be the one helping them be successful children now so they can be successful adults later?

The only difference was that my definition of successful had nothing to do with money.

I imagine I will consider my daughters successful when they:

1. Are living the life they want to live.

2. Feel proud and comfortable in their own skin.

3. Are making a positive difference in the world (on a global or crib-side scale).

4. Realize what an amazing mother I was and worship me for it. (What? Too far?)

If my daughters grow up to be full-time working women with powerful careers, Ill be their biggest supporter. If they choose to stay at home to raise their children, Ill be their biggest supporter. I will support them in whatever avenue makes them happy and makes their lives feel successful however they want to define that success.

I guess thats why generalized labels like these headlines irk me so much. We all make the decisions we think are best for our families, and our kids are going to be just fine. You pursue your idea of success and Ill pursue mine, but lets not waste our time arguing over who is winning at motherhood.

As for me, I may not make buckets of money, but thats OK. I love my family. I love the work I am able to do from home. All in all, Id say my life is a raving success and I dont even need 23 percent more money to prove it.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters