Whether you have an infant, toddler or teen, most mothers—at some time—consider a return to the working world. This decision, however, often is accompanied by contradictory feelings. Guilt that you will be away from your children, relief that you will be away from your kids—or guilt that you might actually feel relieved.
While many choose to return to the nine-to-five routine, others need to work for financial reasons. No matter the cause, there are many issues to consider before making this major life decision. The first hurdle to jump is emotional readiness.
It is difficult to actually know how you will feel about being a working mom until you fully are engaged in employment. Some parents find it upsetting to miss out on a baby’s first step. And the thought of hired help developing an emotional bond with your precious offspring also can be a major source of stress. Others, however, see their career as a big part of their identity and crave the unique fulfillment that work brings to their life. There always will be moments of doubt, but most parents eventually will settle into a comfortable routine.
The next issue is finances. A long-range perspective is needed to determine if your family can prosper on one partner’s salary. Think beyond the mortgage and monthly bills, and consider other important items like health care, child activities and emergency funds. Also determine what might happen should your partner experience a reduction of income. A family should not take on excessive debt so one parent can stay at home.
The implication of an extended leave also can alter your occupational direction. A parent that steps out of career may not be able to gain re-entry. Some professions have a clear path of growth and taking a break may make it difficult to return. However, if you dislike your current work choice, being at home not only gives you the gift of time with your kids, but also allows you to explore alternative opportunities. Consider the culture of your employment field as you make this important decision.
Finally, you have decided that a return to work is eminent. A new set of nervousness makes its way through your body as you think about who will take care of the children. Would daycare make sense, could a nanny be the best option, or might grandma be willing to assist? There are positives and challenges to each consideration.
A good daycare center has a high staff-to-child ratio to ensure your child is safe and that someone always is available. Children also benefit from the company of their peers—young ones truly learn from each other. On the downside, parents must make alternative arrangements if their baby is ill, and many centers have limited ability to change routines should your child have a special need.
A nanny provides the advantage of a consistent, single caregiver for as long as you decide to employ this caring professional. Many also consider the biggest nanny benefit is the potential life-long bond they may occur between this dedicated helper and your family. One-on-one attention, however, means mom will have to coordinate socialization opportunities. Additionally, parents will need to impose rules and routines to ensure that each child is eating properly and getting the appropriate amount of activity.
A relative also can be an attractive child-care opportunity. These are trustworthy individuals who have a built-in attachment to your family and kids. There are, however, some unique issues that could make for a complicated situation. Grandmas, for example, can be notorious for providing unsolicited advice and ignoring your rules in favor of her own. Burnout and fractured relationships also can easily occur as many parents have much higher expectations of loved ones than the hired help. Set clear boundaries and define expectations should this be your best option.
Working and childcare are personal choices. Consider long-term implications and your present situation, and make the choice that is best for your family. Your children won’t care if you are a working mom, stay-at-home mom or some combination. In the end, a loving mom is all that matters to them.
Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S, M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Visit him online at ed-psy.com.