Americans seem to have an obsession with studying and quantifying how kids supposedly ruin your life.
There are the endless studies about exactly how many kids make you most miserable and stressed. Apparently moms with three kids are the most stressed out, more so than moms with two and oddly enough, moms with four. (This writer, pregnant with number three, gulps.) There is a litany of other studies that will tell you that having a kid, or more than one, will make you unhappy as a parent. As one scary Washington Post headline blared last year: “It turns out parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment—even the death of a partner.”
You got that? Better to have a dead husband than a baby. (Said no woman, ever.)
The funny thing is, most moms probably aren’t sitting around reading all these articles. That’s because we are too busy taking over the world.
Well, not quite. But this week, Quartz came out with a refreshingly positive article about mothers. “The ultimate efficiency hack: Have kids” read the headline. It was like the Internet reaching out to give moms everywhere a much-needed high-five. Featured prominently in the almost full-screen photo is one of the most profiled mothers in the Western world: Licia Ronzulli, who became a mom star when she was photographed raising her hand to vote in the European Parliament while a newborn slept in a sling against her chest. In the Quartz photo, dubbed “Keeping it together,” Ronzulli steps between men while wearing a leather miniskirt and with a toddler on one hip and work papers on the other.
It’s almost a caricature of a working mom’s life, except that it’s not. (Well maybe the miniskirt is . . .)
The article points to a couple of recent studies that have found that it is actually moms of young children who are the most productive workers, and it is mothers in general who tend to be the most productive employees. According to the article, “In every single time period, women with children are producing more than their peers with none. This proved to be true despite a significant dip in productivity for mothers of young children.”
This has certainly been true in my own experience. I marvel at how much time I wasted before I had children, and while I don’t deny the very real challenges they bring, having kids has made me prioritize my professional goals, trim the fat from my life, and work more efficiently than ever before, because I know how precious my time is. Today I can produce better quality work in about one-fourth of the time that it took me to produce something of lesser quality before I had two kids.
The Quartz article and the studies they profile are incredibly important because young women today are fed a constant diet of alarmist stories about how children will ruin our happiness and our careers and our independence. Those stories are followed by more stories about the benefits of egg freezing and articles about how Janet Jackson is pregnant at fifty. Never mind that a woman has an almost infinitesimal likelihood of getting pregnant after age forty-five.
Women shouldn’t have to endure scaremongering about parenthood and work-life balance when we’re in our twenties and thirties; families, after all, are what most of us deeply want. As it turns out, we don’t have to be cautious or afraid, because as these studies show, we’ll figure out the logistics and strike the right balance between work and family life without being scolded or condescended to. That said, it’s still nice to be told that we working moms are crushing it.