Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dear Working Mothers

Many working mothers ask questions such as, "Are my children suffering because I am not at home with them? Will they be ok?"

Actually, this issue is more complex than just saying, “Yes” or “No.” In reality, many mothers have to work to help make ends meet or just want to work—because of the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that it gives them. And there is nothing wrong with this! Did you know that at least 72% of mothers work outside the home (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2005)? So if you are one of them, you are definitely not alone!

A few things to consider if you do work outside the home:

(1)   Do I still spend enough time (quantity and quality) with my children?
(2)   Do my children have adequate support and/or child care when I am not there (i.e. father is there, nanny, good daycare services)?
(3)   Am I taking time to keep my marriage strong (e.g. date nights with spouse, etc.)?
(4)   How much stress and strain is my working creating in my family?
(5)   Does my working or my husband’s working create a rotating schedule where one of us is gone during the night?

To put you more at ease, a mother in the workforce can be a benefit to her children if she has good support at home and at work; when mothers are willingly in the workforce, their children have increased academic achievement and fewer behavior problems than children whose mothers are not in the labor force—or who are their unwillingly (Belsky, 2001). Children growing up in these types of families also hold more egalitarian outlooks (Riggio & Desrocher, 2005), with sons sharing more in household work (Gupta, 2006). Fathers’ involvement with children also increases (Bond, Swanberg, & Galinsky, 1998).

Also, if your job offers you the opportunity to focus on complex tasks with minimal supervision then you are more apt to provide cognitive stimulation, emotional support, and safety for your children (Menaghan & Parcel, 1995).

Examining the other side of the coin though, the U.S. workplace is generally not friendly to families. For example, the United States is one of only five countries in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave to its workers (United Nations Statistics Division, 2005). Work can also interfere with important family responsibilities and can cause increased marital strain—as many mothers are still left with the majority of the housework and child care when they come home from work (Huston & Holmes, 2004). Employed mothers have less leisure time and more stress (Milkie & Peltola, 1999). Also, if one of you has to work nights then the risk for the distress and divorce is great increased (Presser, 2000).

Working mothers should definitely think about the above items and even discuss them with their partners.

What do you have to say about working mothers?

*All references obtained through:
 Bjorklund & Bee (2008). The Journey of Adulthood. (6th ed). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.



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