Another day, another study professing to have the ‘answer’ to whether the fact a mum works or not will have a detrimental affect on the lives of their child.
Today, news reports have picked up on a US study that has found that mothers returning to work before their child turns one does not have a negative effect on their babies’ development.
I always read the comments following the online reports of such stories, even though I know where they are going to go.
First there will be the those in the stay at home camp, who in this case will lambast the study as the biased work of a working mum who went to the trouble to conduct the study to make herself feel better. In this camp are stay at home mums themselves and older seemingly male readers who believe all women should be at home and if you can’t afford it, or (gasp) should you be female and want to work, then you should not bother having children.
Then there will be the those in the stridently working mum camp who will applaud the study as the ultimate truth and the long-awaited salve to working mother guilt. In this camp are working mothers and fathers who lament that they wish they could have the ‘luxury’ of staying at home but there are bills to pay and a roof to keep over their heads. Some wish they were ‘lazy enough to accept handouts like stay-at-home mothers do’ but others feel working is worth having additional luxuries for their child so they won’t go without.
When I start reading the to-ing and fro-ing between these debates, my heart starts to sink. There seems to be no accepting of other people’s circumstance or an openness to anything other than their own point of view.
But then every now and then, a ray of hope. Those that say study or no study they believe their choice (whether its to stay at home or go back to work) is the best for their family and believe that all families make a choice that best suits their individual circumstance. “Hurrah!!” says my inner voice, who has been busy asking questions of the posters willing them to consider the other side of the story, and suddenly I wish there was a ‘like’ button on each comment.
I think that there is never a black and white answer to how to best combine family and work, but it’s a choice that each family makes considering their own circumstances at the time.
My choice is to go back to work part-time two 10 hour days a week when J is 11 months old. It took me a long time to work through the potential impacts on our financial situation and my career prospects between full and part-time work, and this wasn’t my first choice as I was hoping to return full-time with some of my work completed at home, which my employer did not go for.
My final decision came down to the fact that my primary concern is my role as a mother and the quality of time I’d get to spend with J. The cost of childcare has an impact on the number of days I could reasonably work from the office.
Every choice comes with a sacrifice of some sort – whether it’s money or time – and only you know what your personal tipping point is. I chose a bit more time over a bit more money.
I know there are going to be people who ask pointed questions about my decision, and it’s hard not to be drawn into feeling a need to justify my choice at that moment. But the best I can do is be happy with my choice, to remember that its the best for our family at this time, that it’s one we can always work at changing if its not working and that our child will thrive with our love, child care or no child care.