Notes on Parenting

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

Monday, May 28, 2012

Maternity Leave: How does a new mommy prepare to return to work?

I was working a part-time retail job prior to having my son.  At the time I determined that I would actually save money by being a stay at home mom.  I had the option to do so then since I was married and had a good household income.  I was able to be a stay at home mom for over three years, having to return to work full-time when my daughter was around a year old.  Going back to work was rather difficult for me emotionally.  My son has special needs and required more attention back then and my daughter was experiencing many of her "firsts."  I was thankful to have a family member be able to provide child care for them in my home, but it was still not the same as me being there with them.  My daughter took her first steps one day while I was at work.  Although I was able to have that moment captured on video for me to view later, I felt the disappointment of not being there when it happened. 

Many mothers are faced with the dilemma of returning to work after just a few short weeks of maternity leave.  More than half of all mothers of infants return to work within the first three months postpartum, with the majority of these mothers working full-time.  Having a poorer quality job is more likely to cause depressive symptoms in mothers returning to work full-time than the amount of hours worked (Marshall & Tracy, 2009).

Likely having work that a mother finds enjoyable and meaningful makes the separation from the infant or young child easier to accept.  If a job is of poor quality and has a negative connotation for the mother, it can be quite easy to have thoughts and feelings of resentment towards the work environment since it's viewed as taking time away from the infant or young child that is not enjoyable for the mother.  Quite often there are times when new or even seasoned mothers welcome opportunities to have meaningful adult interactions.  It is the quality of the work that most greatly impacts the positive or negative feelings that a mother associates with their parent-child separation.

Mothers who have poorer quality jobs can review employment policy and procedures and advocate for changes and improvements to be made that are more family friendly.  Some employers have options for flex-time and alternative work schedules.  Taking initiative to improve a poorer quality work environment will provide the mother with empowerment and more positive feelings.

Marshall, N. L. & Tracy, A. J. (2009). After the baby: Work-Family conflict and working mothers' psychological health. Family Relations, 58, 380-391.

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