To work or not to work? Every mother faces this dilemma with every newborn baby. I had three kids, each born in a different place in the world and each in different circumstances, and I had the same dilemma each time.
When Eden, my 25 year old, was born, I could not really choose. I was still studying for my degree and working for a living. I had to go back to college and work a month after I had given birth to her. Fortunately for me, I could leave Eden with Gal, who was juggling his studies and his work to care for Eden. It ended up being the most wonderful experience both for Eden and for Gal.
When Tsoof, my 18 year old, was born, we lived in California, USA. This was far away from our families, after we had lost two kids. When he was 4 months old, we moved to Thailand. When he was about 10 months old, I felt like I was going nuts staying at home and we got a nanny. This allowed me to go to work, have adult conversations and keep my sanity.
When Noff, my 13 year old, was born, we lived in Melbourne, Australia. I started a business and she went to a family day care twice a week. This allowed me to fulfill my obligations to my clients.
The topic of being a working mom or a stay-at-home mom is a very common discussion among pregnant mothers and mothers of young babies. Most mothers prefer not to make a decision ahead of time, and let circumstances decide.
Financial concerns are a big issue in this decision process. A family’s financial future is often a reason for uncertainty and fear for pregnant women and mothers of young babies.
Another common topic in the discussion whether to work or not is the impact it is going to have on babies’ educational and emotional wellbeing.
To justify their position in this matter, women often bring their personal examples from their own mothers. Unfortunately, this can be very misguided. Choices made 20 years ago are very different to the choices today. Circumstances change.
A study done in Boston College and published in the APA Journal of Development Psychology shed some light on the dilemma of working moms. In this longitude study, which examined 10,700 children born in the United States in 2001, babies were followed from 9 months to 4 years and when they entered kindergarten. The study examined the impact of their mothers’ work time, stress and income on their development, cognitive skills and behavior.
Mom’s reported the child’s age when they went back to work, how many hours they worked, their stress level and time availability. The kids cognitive abilities were examined through standardized tests. Cognitive skills measured their vocabulary, literacy and numeracy, and their behavior was measured though attention skills and interaction with other kids.
The conclusion of the study was that children from lower income families whose mothers went to work performed similar and higher in their cognitive skills than children whose mothers stayed at home. They also found that children from low income families had less behavior problems if their mothers went back to work when they were between 9 to 24 months old.
This survey was different from similar surveys done 20 years earlier and the lead author of the current study, Caitlin McPherran Lombardi, PhD, of Boston College, said that “Different cultural attitudes, more readily available and higher-quality child care and more fathers participating in child rearing are possible reasons for the difference.”
I have had this discussion with many parents I work with. There are some skills that the best mothers in the world cannot teach, because they require other kids to practice and develop with. Sharing, caring, consideration, flexibility, attention span, emotional stretch, exposure to different teaching strategies, decision making, friendship and collaboration are just some of the skills that a good early childhood center can expose kids to easily that others will never be able to do.
So, if you have to go back to work when your baby is 9 months old and you are worried about how this might affect them, rest assured. A good child care can work wonders for children. If you are waiting for circumstance to dictate your decision on whether to work or not, now you can make a conscious decision to send your kid to a good child care knowing that it is definitely going to benefit them.