Working mothers are the most productive people in the workforce

A new study by Ernst & Young has found women working part-time are the most productive in the workforce.

A new study by Ernst & Young has found women working part-time are the most productive in the workforce. Photo: Stocksy

We've got to change the way we think about working mothers.

"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.

Lucille Ball had it right: Busy is better.

And to quote another working mum, Margaret Thatcher: "If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman."

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I'd like to conflate the two: If you want a job done, give it to a working mother.

If there's one thing I've learnt about becoming a mother, it's that it involves constant trade-offs.

There are only so many hours in the day. And when you become a parent, there's even less of them!

Parenting is, for the large part, an exercise in time management. Baby is asleep. Will I have a cup of tea, or put on that load of washing? Will I ring my mother, or have a kip myself?

Down time disappears the moment you walk out of that birthing suite.

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.

And if we want to get sentimental about it, children also increase your opportunity cost. At any point, you've got something else of high value you could otherwise be doing.

The goal of economics is to maximise the wellbeing of society through the efficient allocation of scarce resources. Parents become expert at maximising the wellbeing of their family. 

We do this by making wise choices about what course of action will maximise the happiness of both our children and ourselves (hard to do on five hours' broken sleep!).

It's simply not possible to cram your old life into the new with a baby. Something has to hit the skids. The challenge is to make sure it's the low value stuff, like sanitising​ floors, replacing towels, and well, let's be honest, on some days, showering.

The trick is not to give up everything you used to enjoy, like eating out, reading books, and - stay with me here - WORK.

I can't believe I'm having to point this out in 2015, but women get mental stimulation, pride and a sense of achievement from working, not to mention money and the companionship of colleagues which can be so lacking when mothering at home.

Mothers beat themselves up about getting the right "work-life balance". But, in reality, multi-tasking is something mothers excel at.

It is odd then that working mothers are perceived so differently in the workplace.

Oh, she's off to get the sick kids again. Look, she's out the door again at 5 to go to daycare (no matter that she's just taken home three hours' of work to do when the kids' heads hit the pillow).

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.)

Why watch cat videos on Facebook when you could be at home making home videos with your own cutie?

So don't underestimate us. Employers should appreciate mothers in the workforce. We've walked through fire. We've handled the demands of little tyrants who are noisier and less rational than you. We've got less time for petty office politics and standing by the water cooler. 

We'll get in, we'll get out, and we'll get the job done. We've got something much more valuable to get home to.