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Are Working Women Better Mothers?


The globally increasing number of employed/working women

The number of working women has steadily increased, especially over the last two decades. In some countries, the number of working mothers constitutes a more substantial percentage relative to stay-at-home mothers. In the US, for instance, more than 70% of women with children younger than 18 years are working (Buehler, O’Brien, Swartout, & Zhou, 2014).

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The shifts in gender roles and the impacts of maternal employment on motherhood

It is imperative to note that there have been drastic shifts in gender roles in many societal settings. Women, for instance, have been expanding their responsibilities to incorporate career and work while still playing key roles in parenting and motherhood (Adhikari, 2012).

The impact of maternal employment on parenthood/motherhood has been the subject of many sociology studies (Lucas-Thompson, Goldberg, & Prause, 2010). Different results have been obtained subject to several variables such as economic/financial class, social stratification, and education levels of women. The ages of the children in question have also been vital elements in determining parenting/motherhood quality of working women (Adhikari, 2012).

It is also worth noting that there are those mothers who opt to work part-time while others prefer full-time jobs. These two work schedules have been the subjects of interest in many studies pertinent to the quality of motherhood among working women.


This research paper examines the parenting/motherhood quality of working women. Although there are links between motherhood quality and career, some links are not clear and decisive and, therefore, the debate of whether employed/working women make better mothers than stay-at-home women is yet to be concluded. However, it is generally agreed that women play significant roles in parenting and, therefore, have great influences on their children from infancy to adulthood. The central thesis of this paper is that women have multiple roles to play in society. For instance, they provide motherly care and work and earn incomes. Therefore, working women can make the best mothers if they strike balances between their jobs and families.

Literature review

Parenting/motherhood play significant roles in all societal settings. Nonetheless, parenting is not the only role that adults play. Women, for instance, have other important roles such as providing for families, especially in contemporary social settings. Various scholars, to establish whether working augments motherhood, have investigated the quality of motherhood in women.

Education/employment and parenting/motherhood qualities

Augustine (2013) investigated the link between education/employment and parenting quality. The study revealed that work differentiation has both positive and negative implications of motherhood. It was evident that lowly educated employed/working women have augmented parenting quality while highly educated working mothers may have negative outcomes. Stay-at-home women with low education had the lowest motherhood qualities (Augustine, 2013).

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Choosing between work and family

Almani, Abro, and Mugheri (2012) denote that women in Pakistan face difficulties in choosing between staying at home, taking care of their children, and working. The study is based on the two sides of the argument about working mothers. Proponents for working mothers argue that mothers who work instill self-confidence, awareness, and a sense of commitment to their children. Also, working mothers are likely to improve the living standards of their families (Almani, Abro, & Mugheri, 2012).

On the other hand, working mothers are thought to be ineffective in parenting since they deprive their children of the care they need, especially at a young age. The study, however, reveals that there are no significant differences between children of working employed/women and children of stay-at-home mothers (Almani et al., 2012).

Jewell (2016) observes that when women become mothers, they make crucial decisions. They choose whether to work or to be full-time stay-at-home parents. Her research investigates parenting quality between stay-at-home and part-time working mothers. She also evaluates the perceptions of the participants concerning their decisions. The survey carried out in the US revealed that the participants were relatively satisfied with their decisions of staying with their children, either as stay-at-home or as part-time workers and, therefore, they considered themselves better mothers (Jewell, 2016).

Contrary to the survey’s results, however, studies have revealed that mothers may create stressful environments if they stay at home full-time and, therefore, negative behavior issues may arise (Jewell, 2016).

Huerta et al. (2011) observed that more women with children are working currently than in the recent past. In their study, they used data from five OECD countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, the UK, and the US. It was evident that returning to work within the first six months after childbirth had adverse implications on motherhood quality and, therefore, affected child development. However, the study suggested that the effects are minimal and may vary from one country to another. Early maternal employment, therefore, has relatively minimal impacts on parenting relative to other socioeconomic factors (Huerta, et al., 2011).

Different variables considered in the determination of motherhood quality

Lucas-Thompson, Goldberg, & Prause (2010) conducted a meta-analysis of 69 studies using random effects to review the consequences of women working, especially mothers of infants and young children. Two vital domains of child development, including achievement, and behavior issues were the subjects under study (Lucas-Thompson, Goldberg, & Prause, 2010).

After the analysis, it was evident that early maternal employment had minimal and insignificant associations with later achievement and behavioral internalization. Maternal employment was highly associated with higher achievement and fewer behavioral issues. Also, the meta-analysis revealed that children of working mothers had minimal depression and anxiety issues (Lucas-Thompson et al., 2010).

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However, Lucas-Thompson et al. (2010) appreciated the heterogeneity of the sample groups under study. It was evident that socioeconomic and contextual variables highly influenced many of the studies’ outcomes. For instance, maternal employment was relatively more beneficial in single parenting social settings than families with two parents. Also, women who worked became more beneficial to families with low welfare status. As such, social contexts played vital roles in the investigation of motherhood quality among employed/working women.

About the ages and the developmental stages of children, the analysis indicated that mothers who started working when their children were between two and three years had positive outcomes. Negative outcomes were seen where women returned to work leaving infants below one year (Lucas-Thompson et al., 2010).

Theoretical framework

John Bowlby’s theory of attachment

Several theories, with the aims of explaining parenthood and the roles of parents in child development, have been suggested. One of the theories that have generated creative and impactful research is the attachment theory, which has contributed to sociology research on parenthood for the last five decades (Cassidy, Jones, & Shaver, 2013).

John Bowlby proposed the attachment theory in 1944 in his article that suggested that the forty-four juvenile delinquents under his study were greatly influenced by their home lives. Bowlby then developed the theory using several case studies adopting scientific and statistical methods. Finally, he realized the theory’s preliminary pragmatic insight, which later developed and became the basis of his argument. The insight linked delinquency and bad behavior in juveniles to attachment-related issues. Some of the key sources of juvenile delinquency, according to the theory, included parent-child separations, and inconsistent or harsh treatment of children by parents, especially mothers (Cassidy et al., 2013).

Maternal-child attachment

The attachment theory defines a positive maternal-child attachment as a binary relationship, between parents and their children, that fosters positive child development and environment exploration (Flaherty & Sadler, 2011). Children who are brought up in families where there are positive/secure attachments are likely to have augmented cognitive, social, behavioral, and personal development outcomes.

On the other hand, insecure attachments are defined as maternal-child attachments characterized by inconsistencies, harsh treatments, and lack of any of the basic aspects of positive attachments. Children who grow up in insecurely attached social settings are likely to have impaired cognitive, social, and/or personal development outcomes.

Scholars and research institutes that have gotten inspirations from the theoretic pillars have used and improved the attachment theory over time, for instance, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development derived major conclusions and recommendations on parenting from the attachment theory. The institute developed four themes under which ideal parenthood should be based. The four themes included love and nurturance, security, responsive interaction, and encouragement for exploration, which are key elements of the attachment theory (Cassidy et al., 2013).

It is worth noting that attachment theory applies to all stages of human life, including infancy, adolescence, adulthood, and old age (Cassidy et al., 2013). Infants develop attachment during their first years and continue having more attachments later in life. It is also imperative to note that early experiences influence later cognitive, social, and behavioral functioning (Hong & Park, 2012).

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Maternal proximity and its effects on parenting

The proximity of a parent or a caregiver is a key aspect of the attachment theory, especially during the child’s early stages of development (Hong & Park, 2012; Cassidy et al., 2013). In a secure/positive attachment, for instance, when a mother is close to her child during early development, she is likely to have high-quality parenting. In an insecure attachment, where a mother treats her child harshly, closeness will yield poor quality parenting.

The theory, therefore, is vital and it significantly influences the debate of whether employed/working women make better mothers than stay-at-home women. Any mother expects that her child grows and develops in the right way. As such, many women want the best for their children. As mentioned earlier, the attachment theory suggests that proximity is vital in the maternal-child attachment.

Therefore, women try to be as close as possible to their children (Cassidy et al., 2013). Nevertheless, women have different roles to play in the current world with some being the breadwinners of their families. Lastly, the theory has greatly influenced the debate since work creates what others may see as maternal-child separation.


Global maternal employment

Women play significant roles in any society. In the contemporary world, women’s roles include parenting, providing for families, and developing careers. As such, many women work and still provide parental/motherly care to their children.

Challenges faced by women choosing between working and parenting

Giving too much attention to career growth and professionalism while neglecting motherly duties can have adverse effects. On the other hand, being a full-time stay-at-home mother can have unanticipated adverse outcomes such as financial problems and parental stress. It is imperative, therefore, to strike a balance between work and being a mother.

Augmenting motherhood quality through balancing between work and parenting

With a proper balance, working mothers can have improved parenting quality for the following reasons.

First, many children need people they look up to and their mothers can be the perfect role models. A working mother will set a good precedence for her child since she will highly inform the child’s perspective and view of work.

Second working mothers make significant contributions to families’ financial well-being. As seen earlier, gender roles in contemporary society have been shifted and women are no longer staying at home as in the earlier years. A mother who can provide for her family is more likely to have higher parenting quality relative to stay-at-home mothers.

Nonetheless striking a balance between work and family can be challenging. Women from humble socioeconomic backgrounds do not get the jobs of their choices or jobs with good terms. For instance, most of the working mothers from humble backgrounds work for long hours. As such, they may hardly get enough time for their families. Also, creating time for the family may not be the ultimate solution to parenting issues. As seen earlier, many variables contribute to the quality of motherhood.


Today, more women are employed and are involved in income-generating activities than ever in history. Maternal involvement in work and income-generating activities has many societal and gender role implications. Some of the issues that have generated debate are whether employed/working women can effectively perform motherly duties and whether they make better mothers than women who do not work.

The links between maternal employment and parenting outcomes

This paper has delved into some of the existing studies that have attempted to establish whether maternal employment has more benefits compared to the stay-at-home mothers’ phenomenon. It is clear that many studies have been done and the debate is still ongoing.

Most studies have revealed that maternal employment has minimal negative implications for parenthood. Children of working women tend to be better performers and with fewer behavior issues compared to children of stay-at-home mothers. Nevertheless, most studies have appreciated the different variables that have influenced parenting. Some of the variables that should be considered in determining whether working women make better mothers include socioeconomic backgrounds, gender roles, and socialization.

John Bowlby’s theory of attachment and parenting among employed/working women

This paper has adopted John Bowlby’s theory of attachment to explain why the study problem (whether employed/working women are better mothers) exists. The attachment theory attempts to illustrate the link between child outcome, cognitive and behavioral growth, and parental attachment. While secure attachment is linked to positive child outcomes, insecure attachment results in poor parenting quality and adverse effects on the child. The theory has contributed to the debate on working women and motherhood since it is generally agreed that maternal-child attachment is vital.

Employed/working women maternal qualities

Through the paper’s discussion, it is evident that employed/working women make better mothers compared to stay-at-home women. They are financially and socially beneficial to their families. Therefore, working women should try to strike a balance between their work and their families. As such, working women will make the best mothers and have positive parenting outcomes. Nevertheless, striking a balance between work and parenting is oftentimes challenging, especially to women who are breadwinners and who work for long hours.

It is also clear that all pertinent variables should be given appropriate consideration in attempts to determine the parenting quality of working mothers. As such, researchers should take into consideration such elements as family socioeconomic background and the age of children among other relevant variables.


Adhikari, H. (2012). Anxiety and Depression : Comparative Study between Working and Non-Working Mothers. Global Journal of Human Social Science Sociology, Economics & Political Science, 12(12), 1-12.

Almani, A. S., Abro, A., & Mugheri, R. A. (2012). Study of the Effects of Working Mothers on the Development of Children in Pakistan. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(11), 164-171.

Augustine, J. M. (2013). Mothers’ Employment, Education, and Parenting. Work and Employment, 41(2), 237-270. Web.

Buehler, C., O’Brien, M., Swartout, K. M., & Zhou, N. (2014). Maternal Employment and Parenting Through Middle Childhood: Contextualizing Factors. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76(5), 1025–1046. Web.

Cassidy, J., Jones, J. D., & Shaver, P. R. (2013). Contributions of Attachment Theory and Research: A Framework for Future Research, Translation, and Policy. Development and Psychopathology, 25(402), 1415-1434. Web.

Flaherty, S. C., & Sadler, L. S. (2011). A Review of Attachment Theory in the Context of Adolescent Parenting. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 25(2), 114-121. Web.

Hong, Y. R., & Park, J. S. (2012). Impact of Attachment, Temperament and Parenting on Human Development. Korean Journal of Pediatrics, 55(12), 449–454. Web.

Huerta, M. d., Adema, W., Baxter, J., Corak, M., Deding, M., Gray, M. C.,… Waldfogel, J. (2011). Early Maternal Employment and Child Development in Five OECD Countries. OECD, Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 18, 1-53. Web.

Jewell, J. P. (2016). Perceptions of Mothers’ Work Choices. Journal of Management and Strategy, 7(1), 1-9. Web.

Lucas-Thompson, R. G., Goldberg, W. A., & Prause, J. (2010). Maternal Work Early in the Lives of Children and Its Distal Associations With Achievement and Behavior Problems: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136(6), 915–942. Web.

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