??Should Mothers work? I ask because Sarah Jessica Parker’s new film “I Don’t Know How She Does It” has re-ignited the debate around working mothers.
?But actually, it’s a rhetorical question; I know exactly how she does it - badly. Not terribly, not disastrously, just badly. To be a mother with a full time job means never feeling on top of that job, never feeling you are doing right by the kids, and if there’s a relationship to be kept going, then there’s a partner being short changed as well.
It feels like the working mother is doomed to underachieve somewhere, and often everywhere.
For some women it can seem like there is no choice, if Mum doesn’t work, the bills don’t get paid. For the lucky families who do have a choice, there is no doubt that two working parents mean more disposable income and a nicer lifestyle for parents and children.
Still other mothers find they just don’t want to stay at home - those for whom the routine and repetitive nature of childcare is stifling compared to the cut and thrust of a working day. Lorraine Candy writing in the Mail sums this up when she says of her own maternity leave, “For the love of God please can something exciting happen?”
So, is there an answer to the question should mothers work? We know that babies depend on their primary carer (generally mothers) in their first months of life; it is that intense one to one relationship that gives a baby their understanding of self, their existence as a separate being, and begins the process of developing how they feel about themselves. A sensitive and responsive mother at this stage sews the seeds for a confident and secure child.
By the child’s first birthday the ground work for how they cope with maternal separation, is already set. Arguably therefore, lay the foundations early and the bored stay at home mum is set for a return to work, without guilt. If only! Life is never that black and white and it’s important to remember that children at whatever age, need parents who listen and respond to them.
Anyone who has tried to prise details of their child’s school day out of them knows that they are not always forthcoming; the clues that they really want to talk about something can be very subtle and fleeting. By entrusting your child to wrap around care, there is a very real chance that you will miss these opportunities.
Is it also worth really thinking about your motives for going back to work? Could you live without the money, but just don’t want to? Does your job provide a large part of your own sense of self? Often we define ourselves by what we do, and being a full time mum, can feel a bit like not really existing in the grown up world. Is a drive to succeed at work characteristic of a wider compulsion to do the right thing?
Perfectionist women who continue to take on responsibilities at work and at home are unwittingly taking on a whole load of stress and pressure with it, unhealthy for them, and their families.
Should mother’s work? Ultimately it’s a personal choice, but I suggest, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.