Employed Parenthood: Do I Have a Choice?
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.
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:
- Both mother and father are satisfied with the situation.
- The parent receives both emotional and home-management support from the other partner and children.
- There is a good relationship between parents and child when they are together.
- The child receives good quality care when parents are away.
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:
- Your financial situation.
- You or your partner’s beliefs about parenting.
- Other people’s expectations.
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.
- Do you believe mothers should be the primary caretaker?
- How involved do you believe fathers should be?
- What are your standards regarding housekeeping tasks?
- Can you let go when you don’t have time and can you accept the other person’s standards?
- Can you live with the stress of making daily decisions such as those needed to get ready to leave the house and those needed once you return?
- Can you handle the stress of isolation if you are considering being at home full-time?
- How do you feel about sharing parenting with a non-family member?
- Is your personal self-esteem strong enough so you can live with your decision and the societal influences around you?
- Is your partner also in agreement with your decision?
- Will you have support from family and friends when needed?
- If you are currently employed, how do you feel about your job?
- Is it the best possible match for your skills and talents at this time?
- Would you be happier with a different job or fewer hours?
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.
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.
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 Agency — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Find your state’s health and human service agencies.