Today, more than 50% of mothers with infants and young children
work outside the home. Are you struggling with the decision? Read on to find out what your options are.
Though most mothers work because of
financial need, many choose to work for other reasons. Some want to
stay on top of a fast-changing career, while others enjoy the
intellectual stimulation, camaraderie, and sense of purpose and
accomplishment that their work provides. The decision to work or
stay at home can be a tough one for new mothers. There are no
correct answers, and each woman must evaluate her specific
situation before she decides what is best for her.
Before making a decision, you need to evaluate the effects—both
positive and negative—that working outside the home can have on
your child. Whether these effects are positive or negative depend
largely on who will be responsible for taking care of your
- Children under the care of a consistent and nurturing caretaker
may develop as well emotionally as do children whose mothers stay
- The mother-child bond should not be damaged.
- Being exposed to peers, your child will have a chance to
develop social skills sooner.
- Your child will have a chance to develop independence and
responsibility at an earlier age.
- Your child will have more opportunities to learn to trust other
- Due to exposure to other children, your child may have more infections.
- If your child is sick, the care provider may not be able to take care of your child. For this reason, you may need to find an alternate provider or program. You should also have a back-up option if the sitter is sick.
- Unless you are certain about the quality of care, there is a
risk that your child could receive inadequate care.
Many women are torn between providing financial support for the
family and being a nurturing and supportive full-time mom. Before
you make the decision to go back to your full-time job, consider
other work options you may have. Could you cut back to part-time?
First, you'll need to analyze your spending habits, possibly
reduce your expenses, and find out what's available.
considered job sharing? The benefits include part-time hours but
frequently higher pay and less stress for you and your employer.
Would your employer consider offering you flexible hours? Perhaps
you have a job that would enable you to work at home (telecommute)
one or more days a week. If not, maybe you could find such a job.
Examples of jobs that are best suited for telecommuting include:
accounting tasks, clerical, computer programming, desktop
publishing, graphic design, internet research, web design, writing,
proofreading, copy editing, market research, telemarketing, and
recruiting and sales.
You need at least 6-8 weeks off from work to recover
from the birth of your baby and feel somewhat confident about your
mothering skills. Four months of maternity leave would be ideal. By
four months, your baby will be more apt to sleep through the night
and will have formed a more secure attachment. While some child
care authorities recommend that mothers should spend as much time
as possible with their children during the first two or three years
of life, the advantages have not yet been proven. Working mothers
with limited options should not feel guilty about returning to work
after 3-4 months.
Children under three years of age need a lot of personal care
and cuddling and therefore do better with individual or family day
care. The most important aspect is finding a caregiver that knows
how to provide optimal physical and emotional nurturing for your
baby. Different types of child care options include:
: Care is provided by someone who comes to
- Find a family member, friend, professional day sitter or
- Try advertising in the newspaper or contacting a nanny
- Check references carefully. Be sure the applicant has qualities
that you find important. He or she should be responsible, warm,
affectionate, compassionate, playful, and nurturing with
children. Don’t be afraid to ask probing questions. Some states have agencies that will do background checks on child care providers.
Care in Another Person's Home
- For this option, you provide transportation, clothing, diapers,
bottles, and toys.
- Again, check references carefully, using the criteria listed
In-home Family Day Care
: This option
provides care for 2-7 children in a home setting.
- The care is less expensive.
- Children tend not receive as much individual attention.
- The provider may not be licensed by the state.
- Interview the care providers extensively, checking references and
Day Care Center
: Twenty or more children may be cared for in one facility.
- Day care centers are not usually good options for children
under age two. Caregivers may not be able to provide the degree of
individual attention that an infant requires.
- Infants may be exposed to more infectious diseases if the providers rotate through rooms with toddlers and older children.
- Day care centers must be licensed by the state.
- Ask others for a referral to a reputable day care center, or
check the phone book.
- Interview providers. Spend at least
several hours at the day care to observe and make sure that it is the right
place for your child.
Juggling work and parenting is often very stressful. You may
feel like you'll never keep on top of all your responsibilities.
One of the most important things you can do is take care of
yourself so that you can take care of your family. Here are some
Find a supportive employer who has family-friendly
You will have a much easier time juggling your responsibilities
if your employer is supportive. If he or she is not supportive,
look for an employer with family-friendly policies who is receptive
to flextime, job sharing, or working at home.
Ask for help.
Develop and utilize a support system of trusted people who can
help you in times of need. Your support system may include family
members, friends, neighbors, or professionals that you can hire to
take care of some of your responsibilities. Magazines and books that deal with the topic of working mothers are available in the public library.
Get your rest.
Even though you're busy, don't shortchange your rest and sleep.
Eliminate time-consuming activities that are not essential. Make
sure you get at least seven hours of sleep each night and try to
keep a regular bedtime schedule. Schedule some time for yourself
every day. For example, have your spouse take care of the baby while you enjoy a warm
bath and listen to relaxing music.
Forget having a spotless house.
Your house might have been immaculate before the baby, but now you have more important priorities. Find ways to eliminate time spent on housework. Keep the house clean and safe, but don’t fret over clutter. Make large quantities of food and freeze meals ahead of time. If affordable, consider hiring a housekeeper. Ask your spouse, siblings, and parents for help. Assign chores to older children. A rotating schedule of chores might work best for your family.
Don't expect to be supermom.
Don't expect to be able to handle everything perfectly—no one can. You need help and shouldn't feel guilty about asking for it.
There will be times when your child is sick, or is very unhappy
about being away from you. Accept that you can't afford the luxury
of staying home, and always remember that you're doing the best you
If you're a single mom, team up with others.
Friends—especially other single moms—may be interested in
sharing responsibilities with you, such as shopping, meals, and
baby sitting. This can help you save both time and money. If you
have no friends who are single moms, look for a group or
organization for single parents.