Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Mother’s Daughter

My mother is a doctor who started a solo practice in the 1970s when there weren’t many working mothers, let alone working mother doctors.  She worked tirelessly to establish her practice and then became one of the busiest primary care doctors in the area. I think she was happy with her decision to practice medicine but I know she has regrets about working full time.  She often told me that she wished she could have worked part time or taken off time while we were young.  When I started a family, her advice was to spend less time working and more time with my kids.  

I’ve taken her advice very seriously and have tried very hard to find a happy balance between work and mothering, but in many ways, I am my mother’s daughter.  I am a doctor.  I am a mother of three children.  I struggle with issues around work and balance and guilt.  But I am also very driven to succeed and my mother’s path may be a big contributor of that drive.   By witnessing her courage, strength, and perseverance, I knew that women could work and their kids would still turn out to be great.   

That’s why it’s so encouraging to see research that supports what I always knew – that the children of working moms are very likely to succeed.  

A few months ago, researchers from Harvard Business School published findings from a study where they found that daughters of working mothers were more likely to work themselves, have supervisory roles, and earn higher incomes compared with daughters of non-working mothers.  

This is exciting and affirming news for all us working moms.  And in some ways it's not so surprising.  When I think about my kids and who they will grow up to be, I often wonder what will motivate them, what will make them happy, and what will shape their future selves.  There’s no question in my mind that role models play a huge role in shaping their decisions, their paths, and their destinies.

As for my own mother, I shared this study with her and she wasn’t surprised by its findings.  But she still feels sad that she wasn’t always around after school and on the long days of summer and in the classroom as a volunteer.  Those feelings seem pretty universal and hard to shake.  

The good news is that she is now retired, has six grandchildren, and lots of time to enjoy them.  Plus she has three kids who are successful by any definition and who deeply love her and are grateful for her hard work and for the role model that she was to us.


  1. My mom doesn't feel that way and neither do I. I hope your kids don't feel that way either. Maybe it takes a couple of generations to get rid of the unnecessary negative emotions.

  2. You give me strength as I stand here in the restroom expressing milk for my baby.

  3. I find myself genuinely perplexed by this post. If both of you wanted to work part time, why didn't you? Why all of this guilt? Is it that you feel like you should want to be home more, but choose work instead? I kind of feel like you should own your choice, and if you don't like your current life, change it.

    It troubles me that women who are happy with their balance between work and family are sent the message that what they have chosen is wrong, and that they should feel bad if they elect to do anything other than spend 50-100% of their time with their small children. That we should feel bad if we like anything we do besides child rearing. Or at very least we are supposed to tell everyone how bad we feel so that our choice to work more is somehow ok.

    Look, my mother worked 80 hours a week when I was little as the first woman investment banker at her firm. I was ridiculously proud of her, and I don't believe she had any regrets. I work a lot as a resident now and have a young daughter, and see that she is growing up happy and healthy. I don't feel guilty about choosing this path -- I really do love my job -- and I hope she sees that I am happy and is as proud of me as I was of my own mother. Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day so I could see more of her, but I think that's normal, given I like spending time with her. It is not the same thing as guilt or feeling like a bad mother. I don't feel like a bad mother for working, and neither should you.


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