Just a generation ago experts would more than likely have recommended that a woman contemplating work outside the home should consider the answers to these questions: Will my working result in a happy child, a satisfied husband, a good home life, and a better community? Or, will my working cause my youngster to feel deprived of a normal, happy childhood or my husband to feel he is an inadequate provider? Because of my decision to work, will the community eventually have to deal with a broken home or a potentially delinquent child? Three decades ago, the working mother, especially one with younger children, was considered selfishly derelict in her maternal responsibilities, and her husband was considered an inadequate provider and weak, because he "permitted" her to go to work.
Current attitudes toward maternal employment are more accepting. For example, although society has long recognized the importance of work as a validating activity for men, evidence suggests that it is now becoming increasingly significant for women as well. Studies of employed mothers have shown that they express higher levels of self-esteem, competence, and a general satisfaction with life than mothers not engaged in paid employment. 1
Employment is strongly associated with women's increased sense of accomplishment, independence, and self-esteem. This is especially true for professional women in better-paying jobs. Working in outside paid employment can provide women with additional opportunities to experience agency (self-direction and independence) and communion (collaborative ties with others). Further, women who have developed a sense of independence, mastery, and self-esteem at work may carry over these feelings into their homes, which, in turn, enhances their children's self-esteem.