“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”
That’s a quote from actress Lucille Ball, the first woman in Hollywood to run a major TV studio and whose pregnancy caused a stir when it was written into the script of the second season of I Love Lucy and CBS forbid the use of the actual word “pregnant”, deeming it too vulgar.
Lucille Ball had it right: Busy is better.
And another working mum, Margaret Thatcher said: “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”
But why are working mothers more productive?
When you become a parent, there is always something to do and because children are so demanding, we learn that while they are asleep or at school we need to make the most of our time because that is our only chance to get something done. When we apply this attitude at work, our efficiency improves and we become experts in time management and the art of prioritizing.
Down time disappears the moment you give birth.
Economists say that scarcity creates value. It’s only when something is scarce that we value it. And it’s that way with parenting. Children literally make your time more valuable, because there’s less of it. It is also a matter of increasing opportunity cost. If you are at work, away from your children then you are sure as hell going to make it worthwhile and work your ass off because you always have something else of high value you could otherwise be doing (be with your children).
“Working” mothers are often given a hard time and made to feel guilty. This makes us constantly beat ourselves up about getting the right “work-life balance”. But, in reality, multi-tasking is something us mothers excel at.
It is odd then that working mothers are perceived so differently in the workplace. Employers traditionally view working mothers as far from the “ideal worker”, who generally works five days a week.
But it’s a myth.
A study by Ernst & Young has found women working part-time are the most productive in the workforce. Or rather, they waste the least amount of time at work of all workers, just 11.1 per cent compared to 14.5 per cent for the rest of the workforce. (Interestingly, they also wasted less time than their male part-time counterparts, who wasted 14.2 percent of their working time.)
Moreover according to another study by The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, mothers are more productive than their childless peers at every stage of life, and moms with two or more kids in tow are the most productive of all.
To measure job performance, male researchers tracked the research published by more than 10,000 academic economists over the course of their 30-year careers. Since it’s hard to measure the number of successful surgeries performed by a doctor or the number of cases taken on by a lawyer, they chose highly-educated academics for the study since their work can be easily searched and quantified.
Men with one or no kids were found to perform at about the same level, while men with two kids got a boost in productivity. But the effect was even greater for the ladies: Within the first five years of their careers, women who don’t have children substantially under perform women who do — and women with two kids fare the best of all.
It is important to keep mind that there is a slight bias in both studies in that the women studied are well-educated and gainfully-employed with probable access to paid maternity leave, plenty of sick days, nannies and the works. Obviously, not the case for every mother, which is why these results may not translate to every group of women.