Returning to work after having a baby can be an intimidating experience, and you might be worried that the transition won’t go terribly smoothly. But you’re definitely up for rocking your new role as a working mom – you’ve got this! And something that might help you feel all the more confident? There are actually a lot of reasons why you can feel really good about your return.
Moms in the workforce: The numbers
According to a 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Labor, there are about 25.1 million working women who have a child under the age of 18. This same report states that in the U.S., about one-third of the labor force consists of moms who have children who are younger than 18. Though no two women will have the same experience when returning to work after the birth of a child, simply knowing that millions do it successfully every year can be a helpful bit of inspiration.
Benefits of going back to work
Obviously, there are pros and cons related 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.
- Effects on you: You’ll be able to keep your career on track, maintain a work identity, have some adult 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. 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, and this is found across socioeconomic classes.
- Financial flexibility: Depending on your specific situation, returning to work might allow for more flexibility in terms of what your family can afford to do together.
- Your workplace: If no one at your workplace has taken leave before, your own leave and return to work could forge a new path for moms at your job. You’ll also be able to bring a unique perspective back to your workplace and model to your coworkers just what it means to be a working mom. Plus, your employer will get a talented worker back, with multi-tasking skills that only the parent of a small child can possess.
- Other moms and society-at-large: This isn’t to say anything against women who stay at home to raise their children – these women are setting an amazing example too – but returning to work has its own positive social ripple effects, like helping the economy and reminding other women that it’s possible and rewarding to be a working parent. The way you advocate for yourself as a new mom now can help other women get what they need when they’re in your shoes later on.
Don’t forget 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 spending less time with Baby when you return, there is a lot of research suggesting that the effects on young children are significantly more positive than they are negative. Here are just a few.
- Social skills: For starters, Baby can learn important socialization skills in childcare. Children under 18 whose mothers worked also 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 of working mothers also tended to have a higher sense of self-confidence. And once they became parents, men whose moms worked while they were young spent, on average, seven and a half more hours a week taking care of children and 25 more minutes on housework than men whose mothers did not work.
- Your relationship with Baby: They 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 a 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 – there’s only what’s best for you and your family. But if you are planning to return to work, know that there’s no harm – and possibly a wealth of benefits – in doing so.
- Carmen Nobel. “Children Benefit from Having a Working Mom.” Harvard Business School. President & Fellows of Harvard College, May 15 2015. Retrieved July 25 2017. http://www.hbs.edu/news/articles/Pages/mcginn-working-mom.aspx.
- Rosalind Chait Barnett. “Women and multiple roles: Myths and realities.” Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 12(3):158-164. Web. May/June 2004. Retrieved July 25 2017. http://www.brandeis.edu/barnett/docs/women-04.pdf.
- “Working Mothers Issue Brief.” Department of Labor. Women’s Bureau, US Department of Labor, June 2016. Retrieved July 25 2017. 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.” Beyond the Numbers: Pay & Benefits. 2(18). August 2013. Retrieved July 26 2017. https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/paid-leave-in-private-industry-over-the-past-20-years.htm.
- Lois Wladis Hoffman. “The Effects of the Mother’s Employment on the Family and the Child.” Parenthood in America. University of Wisconsin-Madison General Library System, 1998. Retrieved July 26 2017. 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 Monographs. 7(1): 63–79. January-December 2009. Retrieved July 26 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151456/.
- “Working Mothers.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved July 26 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Pages/Working-Mothers.aspx.