As times change, and a new social order sets in, there is a shift even in the traditional family roles. No longer is it compulsory for only the man to bring food to the table and the women to cook meals and clean clothes. With the young generation being more educated and open-minded, the old traditions in Indian culture no longer hold. The women have not only discovered a world outside their homes but made a success of that as well. If you look at any field of life, you are sure to have the names of women shining through.
The reasons for women to go to work may be many-financial needs, better lifestyle, wanting more from life beyond the home, a sense of self-worth, etc. However, even now in most families whether the women work or not, most of the responsibilities of the household and the children are entirely hers. Being a working woman does not excuse her from her duties as a homemaker. This means that an average career woman has to work double shifts, one at the office and one at home. It is therefore important for their husbands to respect their efforts and lend a hand at home as well. The relationship between working couples is likely to be much better if they run their life at home and outside as partners-each putting in their bit of effort.
Are you sure you can leave your child and go to work?
Make up your mind. No one else can do that for you. Unless you have a financial compulsion to work, it’s always going to be that classical dilemma between the head and the heart. Should you or shouldn’t you. Do you, as a mother think, it will be possible for you to leave your child on his own and go to work? Did you ever contemplate quitting your job before your maternity leave? Before the baby came, chances are that you were reasonably sure that you would nurse your baby for a few months and then get back to work while someone else took care of him. These feelings are likely to change as soon as the baby comes. There’s something about the child, about his complete dependence on you, about his touch and about the way he will cry if you are out of his sight even for a little while, that makes you wonder how you ever thought you would be able to leave him and go back to work. You feel so guilty of even having thought about yourself ahead of your child. These feelings are natural for any parent. If you have to or want to go to work, then you have to be strong in your mind. Even after you resume work, many a time, you are likely to wonder if you made the right decision. So, before you decide, be sure. Weigh your options. Be sure if that’s what you want to do. Be clear of your support systems and then make your decision.
Talk to your spouse
Have a clear and open conversation with your spouse about being a working mother. How does he feel about it? Does he think you can get back to work? Is there a part-time option? Is he willing to pitch-in with the work that you may find difficult to complete because you are working outside the home as well? Talk about the impact your working life will have on the child and the family. This is a big decision that will not only affect you and your career but also your baby and the rest of the family. It may also help to speak to an unbiased person if you think that will help.
If you are thinking of joining work, you know very clearly about what you are going after. You also need to be very clear about what you will miss out on in the deal. For instance, you may not be witness to many milestones in the baby’s life. You may miss his first step or his first word, or the first time he turns on his tummy. While children will do new things every day, you must make sure that you are fine hearing about these things rather than benign the first to see and hear them yourself. Thinking about these things will also help you decide on when you can begin working-when your child is 6 months old, or when your child is older and can communicate clearly what he wants.
When to start
If you don’t have a choice and must get back to work for financial reasons, try and get as much maternity leave and special work hours as possible. But if you do have a choice about when to resume work, then the crucial question is when? Doctors and experts say that mothers must bond and be with their babies until they are breast-feeding. This is generally up to the age of one year. Experts think that if the mother starts work before that, the baby may face separation anxiety. So you may want to use this scientifically proven fact to make your decision.
Some mothers known to us felt that the child’s caretaker/nanny may be unable to understand what the child wants or what is troubling him, and this may cause the child harm. So, they resumed work when the child was about 2 years old and was able to communicate clearly. That was their choice and their personal decision.
Let your boss know
Many corporates nowadays understand the need for work-life balance well and allow mothers some more levy than before. Always let the authorities at your office know that you have just had a baby, and would like Flexi timings if possible. Also, try and work out of the home a day or two of the week if your boss doesn’t mind. Let them know that there might be a lot of more last-minute emergency holidays than before. This will set your mind at peace even before you start work. However, this being said, work is work and you have to pull your weight at the office and deliver. So, don’t expect too much leniency.
Once you are back from the office-prioritize
Remember that you have taken a conscious decision to work. But also remember that your child has first right over your time once you are back (esp. if the child is still small). So take a look at the things which occupy you once you are back, and see if they can be done in a manner that does not require you to be away from your child. Can you use household helpers? Can you ask your husband to pitch in? If you are staying with a larger family, can you ask them to help? Do as much of this as is possible, to be able to spend quality time with your child.
If your child is older then involve him in doing some of the chores in the house that need your attention after you are back from work. Make chores fun and you will not be away from the child. Another thing you must remember is to make 100% effort to be around on your child’s special days-like the school functions where your child is singing on stage, or the sports day where he needs to be cheered and so on. While it is not possible to do this in 100% of the cases, you must try. Children look out for their parents amongst the crowds hoping that they will find them there. But, if you are unable to make it, be sure your child will understand that you can’t manage everything, and move on with their life-so don’t let the guilt get to you.
Spending quality time
When it comes to time spent with your child, quality is better than quantity. It is never the amount of time you spend with your child, but how you spend it. It is better to spend even one hour happily together than be at home the whole day with the child and nag them all the time. While your being present is of great comfort to your child, it is not enough. Involvement with the child in teaching important life skills is what matters more.
Family caretakers and nannies
Many families are blessed and may have family (grandparents/other relatives) or friends to take care of their child. If you are in such a situation, then you need to worry very little, as families will have the same values systems across all its members and will bring up the child to imbibe the same value systems, the same habits, etc. However, you should feel free to gently lay down the guidelines based on which you want the child to be brought up. Take care not to pass on the responsibility of bringing up your child from one person to another regularly. Children need to feel comfortable with their caretaker and the caretaker needs to understand the child’s needs. So (based on your circumstances) decide who will bring up your child and keep the person constant in your child’s life.
If you choose to have a nanny at home to take care of your child, then make sure you tell her very categorically how you want to raise your child. Be clear about the food habits, attitude, and language she can or cannot use around the child. Also, be very clear about the television and computer time that is allowed to your child. Pass on emergency numbers to your nanny, so in case of an emergency, she can reach you. Nannies sometimes act as speed breakers in getting a child to be independent. Some of them will finish your child’s work so that they can save time. Conduct a reference check before you finalize the nanny.
Since the child spends a lot of his time with his nanny, he may start listening to her more than he does to you. It is also natural that the child may need the nanny and her proximity more than yours because that’s what the child is used to. This situation might make you feel insecure. Don’t worry. If your child wants to be close to the nanny, then it means that he feels secure with her and that you have a good nanny who is taking good care of your child.
Just to be sure the nanny is doing as asked, make surprise visits. Ask relatives to drop in without warning. You may also check on the nanny yourself by making a few untimely and unknown visits from the office if possible.
Crèche is another option you can consider while you go to work. Crèches have a higher number of children, which also helps the child develop social skills. You can find one that has the same value system and principles like yours. Before your child starts going regularly to the crèche, it is a good idea to take them there in advance. This will familiarize them with the environment and the buildings.
Also, spend some time with your child there and help him or him to socialize with some of the teachers and friends there. It is always great to have some friends and people you know when you go to a new place. This will make the child comfortable.
Also, remember to hand over a list of your child’s likes and dislikes to the teachers or caretakers in the crèche. Tell them the eating timing and eating habits of your child. Let them know of any possible allergies your child might have along with any chronic illness or medication he requires.
Guilt often leads to spoiled children
As a working woman don’t think that gifts and treats can replace the time spent with your child. Do not give in to the wishes and wants of your child all the time. Remember not to let your guilt translate into gifts. Nothing can replace the precious time you spend with your child. You must also appreciate that if you feel guilty; children will sense your guilt and will try to manipulate you. Don’t allow that to happen
If you feel that your children are deprived, then chances are that you will convey this attitude to your children and they will begin to feel that they are deprived. Convey a positive attitude to your kids about your work. They must grow up to understand that they have a working mother because that’s the way their family would like it. While a lot of children will ask their mothers to leave their jobs and be at home with them all day, they are also proud of the jobs that their mothers do. They feel that their mothers do more than just being housewives. So, if you are a working mother , and you make sure that you pay adequate attention to your child’s needs, then your child will be proud of your work. So, stay positive and work on striking a balance between home and work.
The final responsibility is yours
Also remember that while you and your spouse are working and your child is being taken care of by someone else, the final responsibility of the child’s upbringing is yours and yours alone. Passing on day caretaking does not pass on responsibility. You have to create a bond with the child, you have to instill the right values, and you have to teach them life skills which will make them ready to take on the world. Caretakers will help, but the buck stops at you.
A few interesting points from research studies
- Children of working parents are likely to be more independent, more self- reliant, and more cooperative than children of stay at home moms.
- Many stay-at-home mothers are more likely to be more authoritative parents than their working counterparts.
- Working mothers are less likely to differentiate between boys and girls, and use authoritative mothering based on reason.
- Husbands of working women are more likely to chip into housework and child-rearing.
Top Questions on Working Mothers