COPING WITH BEING A WORKING MOM
Years ago the typical early morning family scene in America involved hubby heading out for work, leaving his honey behind to get the kids off to school and prepare for a day of domestic chores. Today it is much more common for both husband and wife not only to be involved parents, but also to have active careers. When mom’s career involves leaving home daily for the workplace, childcare can become an important family issue. Child psychology teaches us that early human development is greatly influenced by the quality of the early child-caregiver attachment, especially with the primary caregiver. In American society that primary role typically falls to mom, so when she must leave her kids for the workplace, she often worries whether having others care for her children will harm the quality of her bond with them. If you are one of these moms you may suffer some guilt and anxiety every weekday morning. What a way to start the day!
Well, mom, let yourself off the hook. Be assured that it is the quality of time with your kids that matters, not necessarily the amount of time. You can provide rich quality time with both partner and kids after work. You should also realize that women who work are often better off psychologically than women who don’t. We should not take that statement as criticism of stay-at-home moms. Many such moms are perfectly happy, and some working moms are miserable. The problem is that society seems to see the working mom in a pressure-cooker work environment who is too tired at the end of the day to devote quality time to her children. That picture just doesn’t capture the reality of the working mom’s world, but it fosters nagging guilt in her.
As a working mom you have no need to fear playing multiple roles in your kids’ lives. Your comfort level is the key. In fact, heading home on Friday for a weekend with the toddlers after a particularly tough work week can be very pleasant and invigorating; by the same token, heading to work on Monday after a weekend of dealing with diapers, tantrums, and crying might be equally pleasant and invigorating!
If you are having some guilt about work causing separation from your children, here are some things to consider. They’re pretty obvious and simple things, but the actions that can help you cope effectively usually are obvious and simple.
—-Remember that working is not the issue. The things you do with your kids after work is the issue.
—-Involve the kids in dinner preparation, even if this involvement simply means removing take-out from boxes.
—-Help your kids with their homework every evening. If they’re not yet in school, do some learning activities with them that are appropriate for their level of cognitive development.
—-Do physical activities with them, again appropriate to their developmental level. If they are involved in formal school activities like sports, plays, band, etc., support these activities and attend events.
—-Schedule a special “talking with mom” time each evening. This is their time with you and let them determine the direction of conversation.
We bet you could add lots of actions to this list. They’re simple, aren’t they? But remember, effective coping actions do not have to be complex. Other problems tend to develop when we complicate issues, so focus on the obvious and keep things simple.
One final note — although we directed our comments at moms, they obviously apply to dads. More and more men serve as primary or co-primary caregivers, either as single dads or as working dads whose wife is also working. We didn’t mean to leave you out guys, so consider our effective coping actions as also applying to you.