Working moms, happier moms?

An article in the New York Times says having a working mom leads to economic, educational and social benefits for her children. The children of such mothers tended to “complete more years of education, were more likely to be employed, and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes”, the article says quoting a Harvard Business School study which looked at working moms and their children in the US.

I happen to agree that it is good for moms to work–for self-worth, self confidence and economic independence. But I also believe the quality (and quantity) of work is very important. And that having a supportive, understanding spouse is vital. A harassed, tired, frustrated mom who puts in long hours at work but cannot afford to quit her job because she and her husband have EMIs to pay, is not a happier parent, by any reckoning. Nor does that translate into happier, healthier children. 

Commutes, EMIs, long hours don’t make happier moms

A new mom I know commutes four hours a day to her highly-paid job, all the while heartsick at leaving her less-than-a-year-old daughter at home. This mom likes her job but the commute is killing her spirit, and intensifying her guilt at leaving her little one behind. The sad thing is the commute is unnecessary. She and her husband own a flat in J P Nagar, quite close to her office. Given that she is nursing, it makes sense to stay there and spend as little time as possible on the road. But now, on the husband’s insistence, the family has moved to her in-laws’ home in Rajarajeshwarinagar. Hence the  four unnecessary hours she spends on the road every day. The husband knows how tired she is at the end of the day. But he has done nothing to change the situation. This young woman suffers silently like a typical Indian wife/daughter-in-law. No one, not her husband or her in-laws, has taken her comfort into consideration even though the money she earns is crucial for the family’s finances. Naturally, the child involved, also suffers.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Another couple I know, have achieved an enviable work-life-home balance. They have (or used to have) a nanny for their adorable toddler. Till recently, they were our neighbours but moved out just two weeks ago, because the wife has now been transferred by her tech company employer to Texas in the United States. The husband has, for the time being, shifted with their son, to his parents’ home in Delhi. He has quit his Bangalore-based job, landed another job with a US-based company and will, two or three months down the line, join his wife in Texas. Until then he and his parents, will look after their little boy.

When they were in Bangalore, both husband and wife worked hard but never stayed in office longer than 6 p.m. In fact, the wife did so well that her company has sent her on a visa that allows her husband to work. That means his employer can give him a US-based position now. And their son will grow up seeing his parents work hard, but work equally hard.

Do what you love to do

In my circle of friends, there is a mix-some of the moms voluntarily gave up their high-flying jobs because they wanted (and still want) to be there for their children. Some work full-time but have support/help at home and/or husbands who are hands-on dads. Some of the moms compromise by working part-time. Others work from home, like me (though I am also going to start teaching part time). Some have embarked on careers entirely different from what they used to do before they became parents. One friend is now a gifted Madhubani artist though she is a Chartered Accountant by training. Another creates beautiful quilled and beaded jewellery/decor items. She also tutors children in Kannada and Hindi. A third whips up delicious lunches every day for office-goers in her neighbourhood. A fourth is a chocolatier–creating everything from sinful brownies to decadent chocolate munchies and chocolate-rum balls.

All these are like me–in that they love what they do. More important, their husbands (just like mine) support them all the way. So yes, we are all extremely blessed. We are lucky to have supportive spouses, and also to have a choice–to do what we love.

Having that choice, having that support is crucial. That is what makes working moms happier. That is why their children grow up happier and healthier.