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.