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Child Care Resources

Employed Parenthood: Do I Have a Choice?

Joan Sprain; Reviewed by Ronald L. Pitzer, Family Sociologist

Reviewed July 2013 by Kathleen A. Olson, Program Director — Partnering for School Success.

To work or not to work is one of the biggest questions you and your family needs to answer when you have children. If you explore all the options and make sure your decisions match both your own and your family’s values and goals, you will probably be happier with your choice. There may also be less stress on the family and your children will most likely receive stronger parenting.

Parental Satisfaction

Many parents worry about the effects child care has on their children. Research has shown that there is little difference in development, well-being, and the happiness of a child if all of the following conditions are present:

Making a Decision

It is important to re-evaluate all employment decisions no matter what they are from time to time. Emotions change with the birth of a child and continue to change as the child grows. A decision made before birth may not fit after the child is six weeks old.

Personal Values and Goals

Take time alone to think carefully about your ideal situation. Identify how you could create this situation or how you might not be able to. It is important to be true to yourself because your happiness will influence the happiness of your child and others around you. Ask yourself why you wish to stay home or to work. What barriers are standing in the way of either decision? Examples of these could include one or more of the following:

Identifying the above considerations will force you and your partner to think about your attitudes and values toward parenthood and home management. The following questions will be important to consider.

Allow yourself time to daydream and picture the ideal situation. If you have a partner, ask him or her to do this on his or her own too. Each of you should be able to identify what you want and what is currently keeping you from achieving it. Doing this will help you take charge of your lives and work toward what you really want and need.

Shared Decision-Making

The next step is to discuss the situation with those most involved. Make a commitment to work on the decision. Plan time away from your children and other responsibilities to focus on this communication. (If your children are old enough, you can involve them in the decision.) Discussing the decision may take a few sessions.

Each person involved needs an opportunity to share his or her needs with everyone else. After this sharing, you should allow some time before the next step. This extra time may produce more alternatives.

Try not to rule out any suggestions when thinking of alternatives. Sometimes the most outrageous idea can be made into a workable solution. Again, plan a time delay to think things over.

After you follow this process of thinking and communicating, of waiting and then talking things over again, it is time to select a tentative solution. Select the solution that best meets everyone’s needs and set a trial period to determine how the decision feels. You can always change the decision and try something else if it is not working.


Bane, M. J., Lein, L., O’Donnell, L., Stueve, C. A., & Wells, B. (1979). Child care arrangements of working parents. Monthly Labor Review, 102(10), 50-56.

Hofferth, S. L. (1996). Child care in the United States today. Financing Child Care, 6, 41-61.

Related Resources

Quality Child Care: How Do I Know It When I See It? — Finding out about all the options open to you is only the first step in selecting child care.

Child Care Resources and Referral (CCR&R) Agency — CCR&R works to ensure positive beginnings for all young children and their families.

Local Human Service AgencyU.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Find your state’s health and human service agencies.

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