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Mothers’ Reasons to Return to Work After Childbirth Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 19th, 2020

Introduction

In the United States, it is common to find households with both parents working. Hilbrecht, Shaw, Johnson, and Andrey (2008) allege that almost 50% of the United States’ mothers work full time. Hilbrecht et al. (2008) claim, “At least 70% of lactating mothers are in the labor force” (p. 459). A third of Americans maintain that they favor mothers who stay at home looking after their children.

However, they do not give the reasons why mothers are not supposed to work. Hock, Christman, and Hock (2010) state, “American attitudes toward working mothers have been relatively consistent over a long period, the idea being that working mothers are mostly bad for children” (p. 539). Americans stick to moralistic beliefs in spite of lack of facts. The truth is, working mothers do not interfere with the development of their children. In fact, working mothers help to sustain the family. They assist their spouses in paying rent, feed the family, and provide other essential needs.

An increase in the number of working mothers in the United States has triggered an intense debate. People opposed to working mothers argue that they are supposed to stay at home and watch their children grow. They claim that children settle for bad behaviors due to mothers abandoning them at an early age. Moreover, they hold that mothers hurt children by going to work. On the other hand, those who support working mothers claim that they are helpful in catering for family needs.

The proponents allege that children’s behaviors do not depend on the duration that they spend with the mothers. The reason I became interested in this subject is to attempt and demystify these beliefs about working mothers. Besides, I wanted to identify the factors that lead to mothers going back to work and how they manage to balance between work and caring for children.

Working mothers do not affect their children’s development process. One wonders why Americans perpetuate this stereotype. This research paper intends to answer a number of questions. The questions include:

  1. Do mothers hurt their children by going to work?
  2. What motivates mothers to go back to work?
  3. How do mothers balance work and taking care of children?

Do Mothers Hurt Children?

Studies have consistently found that there is no correlation between children’s growth and work. According to a study by Gregg, Washbrook, Propper, and Burgess (2005), there are no significant disparities in psychosomatic signs, class performance, or attachment to mothers among children whose mothers work and those that their mothers stay at home. Moreover, the study found that there are no noteworthy distinctions in language, intellect, affection, and social skills among children brought up in daycare centers and those raised by their mothers.

According to Gregg et al. (2005), children whose mothers go to work before they are four years old do not perform poorly in class. Moreover, they do not develop bad habits in the future. Hoffman and Youngblade (2003) claimed that children with working mothers do not suffer from anxiety and depression later in life. They alleged that it was hard to predict how a child would behave in the future. The society maintains that mothers ought to spend much time with their children.

Consequently, it discourages women from going to work after childbirth. Nevertheless, this is not reality. Hock et al. (2010) claim that many children prefer their mothers going to work. Some children claim that they prefer their mothers going to work so that they can earn. Others argue that work relieves parents from stress. In fact, many children like relating to their fathers during their early life. Children believe that mothers take care of them by going to work. They recognize that mothers need money to buy for them clothes, and the only way they can get it is by working.

Children with working mothers and those without rate their mothers equally in terms of parenting abilities (E. Galinsky, personal communication, March 12, 2015). Children get adequate time with their mothers regardless of whether they work or stay at home. Some working mothers sacrifice their vacations and sleep to have time with children. Hence, children do not notice the difference between when their mothers go to work and when they stay at home.

Numerous variables influence children’s growth and work is not among them. One of the variables is income. Children that hail from low-income families perform poorly in class due to financial hardships. On the other hand, children from high-income families do well academically. Therefore, mothers contribute to children’s performance by either staying at home or working. According to H. Boushey, in some homes, mother is the one who determines if the family will eat, have a roof over its head or dress (personal communication, March 14, 2015). It does not matter what parents do. What matters is if parents can provide all basic needs of their children.

A survey conducted in daycare centers in the United States proved that the amount of time that children spend with their parents does not determine their future behaviors. The survey found that many mothers have paid parental leave. Hence, they get adequate time with their children. The survey found that the quality of child care depends on income level. Hence, children from low-income families receive low-quality care. Quality care is essential for all children. However, the majority of households cannot afford it. According to child specialists, parents pass on their happiness to children. Hence, a child cannot be happy if its mother is annoyed.

Happiness is associated with employment. Mothers are happy when they are employed. The Survey showed that mothers who had worked for the better part of their lives were active both physically and mentally. They did not show signs of depression. On the other hand, the survey showed that the majority of mothers who stayed at home suffered from depression and anxiety, which limited their capacities to take care of children.

What Motivates Mothers to Work?

Baxter (2008) alleged, “The factors that weigh on working mothers throughout their lives are endlessly complex and fascinating….mothers have been forced to go back to work after childbirth to fill the gap that separates family life and work” (p. 143). The best employers are those that are conscious of mothers’ needs. They give mothers adequate time to be with their families and take care of children. However, most mothers are forced to go back to work due to financial constraints.

According to Baxter (2008), some husbands are unable to meet all family needs. Hence, mothers are forced to look for jobs to supplement what men get. Consequently, mothers find themselves going back to work when children are still young. While many mothers are forced to work due to financial constraints, others go back to work to pursue their careers. Klerman and Leibowitz (2003) claim that some mothers go back to work as means to nurture their talents and pursue goals. Such mothers are contented with their work and do not care about the salary they get. Besides, they are happy with their employers.

Klerman and Leibowitz (2003) assert, “Career orientation is not about money; it is about mindset” (p. 290). Some mothers believe that work gives them an opportunity to set good role models for their children. Hence, they do all it takes to make their children develop positive attitudes toward work. According to Morehead (2001), “85 percent of career mothers claim that showing their kids that women can succeed professionally contributes to their going back to work” (p. 360). The majority of mothers aver that they consider themselves obliged to provide for their families. Many mothers admit that they do not go back to work due to external pressure. Instead, their consciences prompt them to look for work.

There are mothers who go to work in order to show their daughters the kind of life they would want for them (E. Galinsky, personal communication, March 12, 2015). According M. Sara (personal communication, March 14, 2015), she went back to work after realizing that she was setting a bad example for her daughter. Sara decided to quit work and stay with her two children. However, one day, her older daughter came from school and showed her a portrait of what she aspired to be after school.

The daughter had drawn her mother. She claimed that she aspired to be a mother when she grows up. Sara could not believe that by leaving her job, she was setting a bad example for her daughter. She wanted more for her daughter. Hence, it was hard for Sara to convince the daughter that she did not want her to be just a mere mother after school. The only way she could help the daughter was going back to work. A year later, Sarah went back to work.

Working mothers were required to respond to questions about what made them go back to work after childbirth. Many mothers cited the fear of losing employment and lifetime earnings as some of the forces that made them go back to work. According to the mothers, many employers avoid hiring people who have stayed without working for long. They claimed that being away for a long time affects one’s skills.

Hence, a mother cannot get a job if she stays for long without working. Moreover, the mothers claimed that they lost confidence after staying for long without working. It became hard for them to apply for jobs or go back to their previous employers. Hence, they preferred going back to work to preserve their jobs. Besides, some mothers claimed that they were forced to go back to work so as to ensure that they are promoted. According to the mothers, employers promote workers based on the period they have worked for the company. Hence, staying at home for long lowered their chances of getting promoted. The mothers went back to work shortly after childbirth in hope that they would be promoted.

How mothers balance between work and taking care of children

Berger and Waldfogel (2004) alleged that it is easy for mothers to decide to return to work. However, the challenge arises in establishing a balance between work and family life. Mothers try to cope with work and family, especially in the early days after childbirth. Later, mothers establish daily routines that enable them to balance between work and taking care of children. Berger and Waldfogel (2004) argued that some mothers delegate the role of caring of children to their husbands. In households where mothers are the sole breadwinners, men assume the roles of caring of the children. Wives train the men how to look after the children.

Consequently, the wives get ample time to work without worrying about children. According to Berger and Waldfogel (2004), working mothers ensure that they set their priorities right. They ensure that they consider work when planning their schedules. Edin and Lein (2004) alleged that putting work before children does not imply that mothers are selfish. It helps in self-preservation. Some mothers liaise with workmates to restructure the work timetable. According to Edin and Lein (2004), some mothers alter the schedule to spend an extra day with children. Hence, they get an opportunity to be with children and monitor them as they grow.

Garey (1999) claimed that women opt to work for organizations that are flexible, offer paid paternity leave, and require less travel. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies to provide unpaid leave to their employees. However, the Act does not cover all workers. As a result, some mothers prefer taking jobs that are not excessively involving.

According to S. Coontz (personal communication, March 15, 2015), most mothers take children to private nurseries during working days. The nurseries take care of the children at a fee. Mothers pick the children in the evening after work. In addition, she claimed that some mothers look for assistance from the children’s grandparents. The majority of those who rely on the assistance from their grandparents are mothers aged between 18 and 34 years.

Some mothers start planning for children in advance to ensure that they do not encounter financial constraints after childbirth (A. Ponce, personal communication, March 12, 2015). The reason the majority of mothers opt to work is to support their husbands in taking care of the families. Therefore, some mothers save in advance before they plan to get children. Saving in advance gives mothers an opening to stay at home and take care of their children. The mothers make sure that they have saved enough money to last them the first three years, which are critical in children’s life. Once the three years are over, they look for jobs and take children to daycare centers.

The contemporary economic situation does not allow mothers to stay at home. Taking care of children needs money. In most cases, husbands earn little such that they cannot support the families prompting mothers to chip in and assist. A survey conducted in the United States households proved that some parents are obliged to hire in-house assistants to take care of children as they work. In spite of the numerous daycare centers that look after children, some mothers prefer hiring in-house assistants to allow the children remain at homes.

Some mothers claimed that they hired in-house assistants to take care of children and not perform domestic duties. Today, Americans have established integrated children’s daycare centers that offer services throughout the year. Many mothers prefer the daycare centers because they provide comprehensive services. Mothers do not have to worry about the education and wellbeing of their children. Hence, the centers enable mothers to concentrate on work and pursue their careers without interruptions.

Conclusion

For decades, people have alleged that working mothers hurt their children. The majority of Americans believe that mothers are supposed to stay at home and take care of children until they grow. Nevertheless, many mothers tend to go back to work shortly after childbirth. Americans should know that working mothers do not affect children’s development process. Indeed, they contribute to the development of their children. When mothers are happy, their children are happy too.

Different factors contribute to mothers going back to work. Besides, mothers use different strategies to ensure that they balance between work and looking after children. This paper has helped to negate the perception that working mothers torture their children. Besides, it has assisted to identify the reasons why mothers decide to go back to work after childbirth.

The perception that working mothers hamper the growth of their kids is erroneous. Research has shown that children’s growth is not related to work. Moreover, study has found that children whose mothers work perform well in class and do not suffer from behavioral problems. Many children prefer their mothers going to work. They allege that mothers cannot buy for them clothes and other items unless they work. Both working and non-working mothers are rated equally in terms of parenting duties. Research has shown that income contributes to child growth. Children from affluent families do better than those from poor households. Therefore, working mothers augment children’s growth since they contribute to families’ income.

This article has helped to change the perception that working mothers hurt their children. From the findings, it is evident that working mothers are better than non-working mothers in terms of parenting responsibilities. Research has shown that children from families that both parents work do better academically and morally. Thus, the findings negate the belief that a mother has to be around her child so that it becomes morally upright. Moral upbringing does not depend on parents only, but also on the society.

Mothers should learn that children regard them as their role models. Thus, if they want children to have a better future, they should make sure that they set good examples. At times, mothers think that they help their children by staying at home. However, they do not set good examples for the children, particularly girls. Girls may believe that females are obliged to stay at home and take care of children.

The presence of integrated daycare centers has made it easy for mothers to balance between work and taking care of children. Mothers take children to daycare centers and pick them in the evening. For mothers who do not prefer daycare centers, they hire in-house assistants to look after children. Apart from in-house assistants and daycare centers, mothers also liaise with workmates to establish flexible working schedules. It allows them to have sufficient time with children.

References

Baxter, J. (2008). Is money the main reason mothers return to work after childbearing? Journal of Population Research, 25(2), 141-160.

Berger, L., & Waldfogel, J. (2004). Maternity leave and the employment of new mothers in the United States. Journal of Population Economics, 17(2), 331-349.

Edin, K., & Lein, L. (2004). Making ends meet: How single mothers survive welfare and low-wage work. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Garey, A. (1999). Weaving work and motherhood. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Gregg, P., Washbrook, E., Propper, C., & Burgess, S. (2005). The effects of a mother’s return to work decision on child development in the UK. The Economic Journal, 115(501), 48-80.

Hilbrecht, M., Shaw, S., Johnson, L., & Andrey, J. (2008). I’m home for the kids’: Contradictory implications for work-life balance of teleworking mothers. Gender, Work & Organization, 15(5), 454-476.

Hock, E., Christman, K., & Hock, M. (2010). Factors associated with decisions about return to work in mothers of infants. Developmental Psychology, 16(5), 535-560.

Hoffman, L. & Youngblade, L. (2003). Mothers at work: Effects on children’s well-being. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Klerman, J., & Leibowitz, A. (2003). Child care and women’s return to work after childbirth. The American Economic Review, 80(2), 284-293.

Morehead, A. (2001). Synchronizing time for work and family: Preliminary insights from qualitative research with mothers. Journal of Sociology, 37(4), 355-369.

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