Going back to work after having a baby is a big decision. After all, while many moms have fulfilling jobs outside the home, maternity leave in the US is unusually short compared to our peer countries, and childcare is prohibitively expensive – and it’s in short supply. Add to that the fact that stay-at-home moms and even relatives may pile on the guilt for not spending early childhood at home, and working moms can get down on themselves pretty quickly.
Luckily, there’s good news buried in that working mom anxiety: placing your child in daycare or another form of childcare can actually benefit their development. With that in mind, it’s time to ditch the working mom guilt, because it’s not helping you or your little one.
It’s All About Balance
When asked why they choose to work, one of the primary reasons that new mothers cite, besides finances, is the need to maintain a balance and retain their identity outside of parenthood. Going back to work established a routine, breaks up the isolation of non-stop caregiving, and even when work is tiring, parents often feel mentally refreshed by spending time doing engaging work with other adults. As a parent, your wholeness will benefit your child.
If you’re still having doubts about whether or not to go back to work, one of the best things you can do is to connect with other mothers who have made the same choice. Having a community of parents who understand your concerns and your value can make a big difference when it comes to feeling confident about your decisions.
Daycare And Development
The two most common sources of childcare for working parents are daycare centers and family, typically grandparents, and each has distinct advantages. For example, children who attend daycare programs receive early socialization that prepares them for school, receive early educational enrichment, even prior to preschool, and even have stronger immune systems than children care for at home (though that comes, of course, with a number of viruses and infections that will keep them home from daycare along the way).
Another major benefit of enrolling children in daycare at an early age is that they develop better communication skills – both verbal and non-verbal. That’s because they need to communicate with a range of adults and children, rather than just with their caregiver, who has the time and ability to learn the child’s unique cues. This will serve them well as they get closer to school age.
Go With The Grandparents
Children who are cared for by their grandparents obviously aren’t exposed to a large group of children or necessarily given an educational edge as part of their childcare, but there are many other ways that children benefit from being with their grandparents. For example, grandparents are confident caregivers – they’ve raised their kids and they know what they’re doing. Especially if you’re a first-time parent, seeing a grandparent take over can help you feel more confident and even bring you closer together. Additionally, there’s some research that suggests grandparents who care for their grandchildren actually live longer, so those benefits go both ways.
It’s okay to have some doubts about going back to work; the fact is, as a mother, you’re going to feel conflicted about a lot of things during your child’s life. That’s a natural side effect of loving them and wanting what’s best. You’ll never totally outrun your guilt and anxiety, so you just have to trust your gut and do what you think is best for your family.