Working Outside the Home: Can Mothers Make It Work?

Today, many motherswork outside the home. Are you struggling with the decision? Read on to learn more about your options.IMAGE Though some mothers work because offinancial need, others choose to work for different reasons. Some want tostay on top of a fast-changing career, while others enjoy theintellectual stimulation, camaraderie, and sense of purpose andaccomplishment that their work provides. The decision to work orstay at home can be a tough one for new mothers. There are noright answers, and each woman must evaluate her specificsituation before she decides what is best for her.

What Could It Mean for Your Child?

Before making a decision, you need to evaluate the positive and negative effects that working outside the home can have onyour child.

Positives

  • Children under the care of a consistent and nurturing caretakermay develop emotionally as well as children whose mothers stayhome.
  • The mother-child bond should not be damaged.
  • Being exposed to peers, your child will have a chance todevelop social skills sooner.
  • Your child will have a chance to develop independence andresponsibility at an earlier age.
  • Your child will have more opportunities to learn to trust otheradults.

Negatives

  • Due to exposure to other children, your child may become sick more often.
  • If your child is sick, the care provider may not be able to take care of your child. 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 arisk that your child could receive inadequate care.

Explore More Convenient Work Options

Many women are torn between providing financial support for thefamily and being a nurturing and supportive full-time mom. Beforeyou make the decision to go back to your full-time job, considerother work options you may have. Here are some things to consider:
  • Think about a home-based business.
  • Find out about freelance opportunities.
  • See if you can work from home in the job you currently do. Many companies allow for telecommuting.
  • Look into a career that will allow you to work from home.

Maternity Leave

Specifics of maternity leave will vary from woman to woman and workplace to workplace.Getting time off can be tricky, but you can maximize your time if you are creative. Many women take advantage of benefits offered by their employers to gain time off that may include sick time, vacation days, holidays, personal days, short-term disability and unpaid family leave time. It is important to plan your maternity leave in advance so that you and your family know what to expect. Not planning ahead can result not having as much time off or create unintended financial situations.Talk to your supervisor or refer to your company's human resource department to find out what is available to you.

Getting Child Care

The most important aspect is finding a caregiver that knowshow to provide optimal physical and emotional nurturing for yourbaby. Different types of child care options include:In-home Care (provided by someone who comes toyour home)
  • Find a family member, friend, professional day sitter orlive-in nanny.
  • Try advertising in the newspaper or contacting a nannyservice.
  • Check references carefully. Be sure the applicant has the qualitiesthat are important to you. They should be responsible, warm,affectionate, compassionate, playful, and nurturing withchildren. Do not 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 listedabove.
In-home Family Day Care (children in a home setting)
  • The care is less expensive.
  • Children tend not to receive as much individual attention.
  • The provider may or may not be licensed by the state.
  • Interview the care providers extensively, checking references andreputation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that family day care businesses have no more than 6 children per adult (including caregiver's children), with no more than 2 of those children under the age of 2.Day Care Center (20 or more children may be cared for in one facility)
  • Infants may be exposed to more infectious diseases and have more colds early in life, but during school years, this early exposure may mean less colds.
  • Day care centers must be licensed by the state.
  • Ask other parents for a referral to a reputable day care center, orcheck the phone book.
  • Interview providers. Spend at leastseveral hours at the day care to observe and make sure it is the rightplace for your child.

Taking Care of Yourself

Juggling work and parenting is often very stressful. You mayfeel like you will never stay 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 sometips:Find a supportive employer who has family-friendlypolicies.You will have a much easier time juggling your responsibilitiesif your employer is supportive. If they are not supportive,look for an employer with family-friendly policies who is receptiveto flextime, job sharing, or working from home.Know your rights. Many laws are in place to protect working women with issues concerning breastfeeding or child care.Ask for help.Develop and utilize a support system of trusted people who canhelp you in times of need. Your support system may include familymembers, friends, neighbors, or professionals that you can hire totake care of some of your responsibilities. Magazines and books that deal with the topic of working mothers are available in your public library.Get enough rest.Even though you are busy, do not shortchange your rest and sleep.Eliminate time-consuming activities that are not essential. Makesure you get enough sleep each night. Consider napping when your baby does.Schedule some time for yourselfevery day. For example, have your spouse take care of the baby while you enjoy a warmbath, exercise or listen to 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 do not fret over clutter.Make large quantities of food and freeze meals ahead of time. If you can afford it, 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.Do not expect to be supermom.Do not expect to be able to handle everything perfectly—no one can. You need help and should not feel guilty about asking for it.There will be times when your child is sick or is very unhappyabout being away from you. Accept that you cannot afford to stay home, and always remember that you are doing the best youcan.If you are a single mom, team up with others.Friends—especially other single moms—may be interested insharing responsibilities with you, such as shopping, meals, andbaby sitting. This can help you save both time and money. If youhave no friends who are single moms, look for a group ororganization for single parents.There are many resources for mothers concerning work and child care. Planning can help take some stress off of your decisions. Take some time before you have your child to explore all your options and choose the best one that fits your family's needs.

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RESOURCES

Office on Women's Health
http://www.womenshealth.gov

US Department of Labor
http://www.dol.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Advice for working mothers: Will it affect your child? Essortment website. Available at: http://www.essortment.com/advice-working-mothers-affect-child-36969.html. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Anticipatory guidance. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 24, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Babysitters and child care. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-beyond/babysitter-child-care.html#c. Updated September 27, 2010. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Making child care choices count for your family. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Pages/Making-Child-Care-Choices-Count-for-Your-Family.aspx. Updated July 9, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Maternity leave. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/planningandpreparing/maternityleave.html. Updated March 2011. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Understanding motherhood and mood—baby blues and beyond. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/delivery-beyond/pages/Understanding-Motherhood-and-Mood-Baby-Blues-and-Beyond.aspx. Updated June 5, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Working mothers. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Pages/Working-Mothers.aspx. Updated July 9, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Work options for mom. Moms Back to Work website. Available at: http://www.momsbacktowork.com/work-options.html. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Working parents. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/pages/Working-Parents.aspx. Updated July 9, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

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