The benefits of being a mom seem pretty clear. Nurturing and cuddling babies, helping your kids master reading and life skills, the feeling of pride of watching your kids grow and thrive, those are the things that we associate as the treasures of mom life.
And you also see the costs of motherhood, the sleepless nights, the worry, the impact on your career, and, oh yes, saving up for college for those children of yours.
But there are other areas where moms find growth and challenge that aren’t discussed as much, particularly when it comes to career and health. New research is providing more insight into how motherhood impacts a woman’s physical health and career.
Motherhood tends to increase reported stress levels in women who are parenting. A study from Sweden shows a rise in self-reported stress, with levels higher today for women who are mothers than from 50 years ago. Women who have given birth are also reported as having a higher risk for obesity. A recent study from Preventative Health showed that a woman’s risk of obesity goes up by 7 percent for each child to whom she gives birth.
But the news isn’t all bad when it comes to health and being a mom. There are powerful positive effects from motherhood. Recent studies from Canada have shown that moms develop bigger brains, as the multi-faceted experience of raising kids and managing life grows cognition, learning, and spatial memory.
Motherhood lowers a woman’s overall risk for breast cancer and for cardiovascular disease. And believe it or not, even after all those sleepless nights, women who are moms live longer than their non-parenting peers. To go even further, a recent study by the Boston University School of Medicine showed that women who give birth to their last child in the years after their 33rd birthday live even longer than those who give birth to their last child by the age of 29.
Career is another area impacted by motherhood.
While there are certainly unfortunate challenges with paid leave and salary discrepancies here in the U.S., businesses benefit greatly by having women who are moms on their teams. A 2019 study showed that 89% of American workers believe that having women who are moms in leadership roles in their companies brings out the best in employees. In the workplace, women who are moms are seen by their peers as having better multitasking skills, are better listeners, and value the relationships in a company at a higher level.
While scholarly studies on the impact of motherhood on a woman’s life have been a long time in coming, research is starting to reveal a greater understanding of how parenting shapes physical and psychological effects. And much of that fresh insight is great news, predicting longer lives and positive business acumen for women who are also moms.