It’s not easy being a working parent! But you are entirely capable of managing the world of parenting and the world of employment. From childcare expenses, to commuting, to preparing everything the night before, and more – there are a lot of things to take into consideration once you return to work. But with a little preparation and practice, these things will become second nature in no time.
Moms in the workforce: the numbers
In case you’re not aware of just how many moms are working today, according to the US Department of Labor, roughly 70% of women with a child under 18 are in the workforce today. This same report found that mothers are the primary or sole earner in 40% of households with a child under the age of 18.
It’s becoming commonplace (and necessary) for women to return to work after having a baby, and women are going back to work earlier, too. For most women, staying at home full-time is not an option anymore. You don’t want to base your decision on numbers alone, but it might help to know that more and more moms are staying in or entering the workforce.
Benefits of going back to work
Obviously, there are pros and cons to going back to work after having a baby. There’s no doubt that certain things will get more difficult, but there are also some significant benefits of returning to your job after Baby‘s arrival. Here are just a few of the positive effects of you returning to work – and some might surprise you!
- Effects for you: You’ll be able to keep your career on track, maintain a work identity, get some socializing in your day, meet personal goals and enjoy your successes, and – very important when you have a young baby – get out of the house from time to time. Across socioeconomic classes, studies find that moms who are employed had either a higher or equal sense of well-being when compared to moms who were not employed.
- Your partner: Another benefit of you returning to work is that your partner will be relieved of some pressure to be the sole earner of the family. This might allow for more flexibility in their hours, as well as more opportunities regarding what your family can do together and what you can afford.
- Your workplace: If no one at your office has taken leave before, you could be about to forge a new path for moms at your job. You’ll also be able to bring a unique perspective to your office and model to your coworkers what it’s like to be a working mom. Plus, your employer will get a skilled worker – you! – back.
- Other moms and society-at-large: This isn’t to downplay women who stay at home to raise their children, because these women are setting an amazing example, too. But returning to work has its own positive social ripple effects, like helping the economy, encouraging and enabling men to share in caregiving, and reminding women that it is possible to happily combine work and motherhood. The way you advocate for yourself, and the things that you ask for, can help other women get what they need when they’re in your shoes.
Don’t forget the benefits for Baby!
Many moms feel guilty about wanting, choosing, or having to go back to work. While it’s completely understandable that you’d have mixed feelings about leaving Baby when you go to work, a great amount of research suggests that the effects are significantly more positive than negative. Here are a few.
- Social skills: For starters, Baby can learn important socialization skills in childcare, which might help you be more comfortable leaving them in childcare earlier on. And children under 18 whose mothers worked tend to have better behavioral conduct and social adjustment.
- Potential long-term benefits: A study from Harvard Business School found that women whose mothers worked while they were young earned 23% more than women whose mothers did not work. Daughters tended to have a higher sense of self-confidence. Once they became parents, men whose moms worked while they were young spent, on average, seven and a half more hours a week on childcare and 25 more minutes on housework than did men whose mothers did not work.
- Your relationship with Baby: Baby will also get to share the joy of your personal and professional accomplishments, which is great in and of itself, and if you feel more fulfilled, that’s bound to have a positive effect on Baby.
The bottom line
Many women don’t have a choice about returning to work after their baby arrives. If you’re one of these women, you should be proud of yourself for doing what you have to do to provide for your child.
If you’re one of the many women who can make a choice, there’s certainly no right or wrong decision, except for what’s right for you and your family. But if you have been seriously considering returning to work after your pregnancy, know that there’s no harm – and possibly a great deal of benefits – in doing so.
- Carmen Nobel. “Children Benefit from Having a Working Mom.” HBS. President & Fellows of Harvard College, May 2015. Web. Accessed 7/25/17. Available at http://www.hbs.edu/news/articles/Pages/mcginn-working-mom.aspx.
- Rosalind Chait Barnett, PhD of the Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University. “Women and Multiple Roles: Myths and Realities.” Harv Rev Psychiatry. 12(3):158-164. Web. May/June 2004.
- “Working Mothers Issue Brief.” DOL. Women’s Bureau, US Department of Labor, 2016. Web. Accessed 7/25/17. Available at https://www.dol.gov/wb/resources/WB_WorkingMothers_508_FinalJune13.pdf.
- Robert W Van Giezen. “Paid leave in private industry over the past 20 years.” bls.gov. US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aug 2013. 2(18). Web. Accessed 7/26/17. Available at https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/paid-leave-in-private-industry-over-the-past-20-years.htm.
- Lois Wladis Hoffman, PhD. “The Effects of the Mother’s Employment on the Family and the Child.” parenthood.library.wisc.edu. Lois Wladis Hoffman, 1998. Web. Accessed 7/26/17. Available at http://parenthood.library.wisc.edu/Hoffman/Hoffman.html.
- Jayita Poduval and Murali Poduval. “Working Mothers: How Much Working, How Much Mothers, And Where Is The Womanhood?” Mens Sana Monogr. 7(1): 63–79. Web. Jan-Dec 2009. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151456/.
- “Working Mothers.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, Nov 2015. Web. Accessed 7/26/17. Available at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Pages/Working-Mothers.aspx.