Wouldn't you rather prioritise your children?
‘How can you go to work knowing your baby is at home missing you all day?’, ‘Haven’t you heard that children with working parents can have behavioural problems?’, ‘Wouldn’t you rather prioritise your children?’ are just some of the painfully untrue things that I have either overhead or have had said to me. False, false and also false. Maybe I’m biased because I returned to work, maybe I’ve done my research or maybe I know that when I am at work my child is well looked after, having fun. Maybe I’ve looked into the issue enough to know that me going to work will in no way mean that my child develops behavioural problems. Maybe I am returning to work because I want to support and prioritise my child. One thing I have learned since being a working mother, is that somebody will always have something to say about your choices. If you aren’t working, you’re living off ‘other people’s hard earned tax money’ and if you are working, you’re ‘harming’ your child.
One of the most challenging decisions a new parent can make is whether to return to work or stay at home with their child. The debate as to whether returning to work can impact your child’s development can seem to be never-ending; however, there is minimal evidence to suggest that your child will be affected by your choice to work. In fact, it would seem that, if anything, they are affected in a positive way. According to a published study from Oxford University and the London School of Economics, children from parents who go out to work can actually develop at an increased rate over those who have stay-at-home parents. The study also found that children whose mothers were not working had lower capabilities and also a 5% decrease in social and everyday skills compared to children of working mothers. Children who attended nursery had a 10% increase in skills such as communication and social cognition. Mothers who return to work are not in anyway harming their child. If anything, they are benefiting them. Even those children who do lack in certain areas, usually make this up by primary school age - so whether you’re working or you’re not, you don’t need to panic or feel guilty for your decisions. Every mum is different and every child is different.
I’m sure we have all heard the negative things about returning back to work, so here are a few positive impacts regarding working mothers:
Working mums are positive role models. That’s not to say that stay-at-home mums aren’t positive role models. However it by having a working mother, children realise from a young age that women are not just there for household domestic chores.
Working mums raise more independent children. From personal experience, right up until my child started nursery, she clung to me for dear life however since joining, she has learnt to do things for herself and has become more independent in everyday life, she is not afraid to explore new things.
Statistics suggest that stay-at-home mums are actually more prone to depression compared to working mums. So being a working mother is actually beneficial for your mental well-being as it gives you that well deserved time away for adult conversation.
Working mums don’t take the quality time for granted. Whether you work an hour a week or 40 - working mothers know that when they get home they get to spend time with their child, mobile phones and other distractions are left until the child is in bed whereas if you are at home with your child 24/7, you could take this precious time for granted.
Children of working mothers may do better academically. A huge study in Denmark resulted that children of women who work 10-19 hours per week for the first four years of their child’s life, will have a grade point average that is 2.6% higher than those children whose mothers did not work at all.
Working mothers' children may have fewer behavioural problems. Despite the constant assumptions that children of working mothers are not well behaved, children are actually not suffering at all. In fact, according to 50 years of research, children from working mothers may be better behaved than those from stay at home mothers.
There are numerous positive aspects to being a working mother, just like there are numerous positive aspects to being a stay-at-home mother. Something that all mothers should however be aware of is the risk of depression in ‘super mums’. As previously mentioned, working mothers have a lower risk to depression than stay-at-home mothers however when the risk can become significantly more if the working mother takes on too much for her to handle. The main way in which you can ensure you are coping and not taking on too much is to create a work-family life balance. A few ways to do that include, letting go of the guilt, investing in good quality childcare, organise your mornings by prepping the night before, create a family calendar including fun activities for your children when you aren’t at work, do not respond to work emails or calls when you are with your family, communicate your needs with your employer (especially if they are giving you too much of a workload), create moments for yourself to relax outside of both work and family.
Returning to work can be daunting. Being a stay-at-home mum can be daunting. Whatever you decide, you’re right. Only you know what your family needs and what works best!
To read more about parental burnout and how to avoid it, click here