Sunday, 1 August 2010

News for the would be working mother

An interesting article in The Guardian today discusses an American study recently finding "that mothers can go back to work months after the birth of their child without the baby's well being suffering as a result." You can read the full article here.
I find the subject interesting because of several reasons. On a personal basis, I have a problem with the prevailing Aussie mentality that takes it for granted that women should stay at home after giving birth because otherwise they'd be ruining the lives of their children. The evidence available to me seems to indicate a somewhat opposite view, more along the line of a mother staying home is ruining her own life. Yet the dilemma is hard: if you don't have family to look after your child then you have to send them to childcare, and in childcare they catch every germ that moves, which means they're probably going to be sick more often than they should at too young an age. Yet on the other hand there are benefits to be gained from childcare, especially on the social side. A few years ago I seem to remember reading an article in Scientific American quoting research that found the social benefits of childcare outweigh the parental negligence factor of sending the baby/child to childcare when it comes to the child's overall intelligence, but I have been unable to locate that article since.
With that in mind, it's worth going back to the main points raised by The Guardian's article:
  1. It's best if the mother goes back to part time work only. Makes sense; the parenthood of a young child is too hard anyway.
  2. The most important thing about parenting is giving your child attention, so when the mother is home - regardless of whether she's always there or whether she just came back from the office - she should forget work and focus on the attention side of things. Makes sense too; our experience is that our child begins to misbehave at the exact point he feels he's not getting enough attention.
My conclusion is simple. Women should not heed common perceptions concerning working mothers; instead they should decide what would work best for themselves. Call it women's liberation.

Note added on 2/8/10:
To prevent some of the above comments being taken at too personal a level, I would like to state I do not pretend to know what is better for any specific person; I have never been a mother myself, I never will, and I can't put myself in another person's position.
When I said that "evidence available to me seems to indicate a somewhat opposite view, more along the line of a mother staying home is ruining her own life", I meant for a more generic observation. Something along the lines of recent social research done at Kew (an expensive Melbourne suburb), that found divorced mothers there are really suffering because they gave up on their careers to become a full time mother. When the husband jumps off for his younger mistress, they're left with a huge Kew mansion to maintain but not enough means to maintain it with and no professional prospects to help them overcome their situation. In order to prevent what they consider a humiliation (i.e., moving to a less expensive area), they live a life of lies.

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