The objective of this article is to present a discussion of how moms can work and raise healthy children at the same time.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: I am asked all the time by people with new babies or young children about how having both parents work will affect the child. These are my views.
There is an external pressure that relates to the movement for greater equality for women. In addition, in these economic times, many families have both parents in the work force. There are also those women who are actively pursuing careers that are important to them.
There are several issues here. First, if both parents are working, a good mother substitute is essential. This also means consistency of care, particularly in babies and very young children who are forming the bond that the young make with their caretaker. Interrupting this bond greatly affects the ability to trust and makes for serious problems as children grow to adulthood.
Good mother substitute situations are hard to find. Shopping around for a good day care situation or, if you are very fortunate, finding a relative that can pitch in is ideal.
Besides the influence of social change, there is the fact that many adults have have had little preparation for parenthood. They may have only limited understanding of how children develop and what to expect at different ages. They may not know how to help children become self-disciplined, how to set boundaries and make clear their expectations. If children don’t know what is expected of them, they may try too hard to be good. This is the case in frequent changes of child care. They may develop their own guidance systems too early and these systems may be extremely rigid, inflicting hardship on their makers. Other children growing up without limits set by their parents may show their need for clearer direction by becoming mischievous. These children may grow to adulthood expecting to do exactly as they please because no one has ever told them what to do about anything. In either case, lack of parental guidance is a problem.
When both parents work, I have two primary suggestions for approaching children. The issue is to be sure that the children know that they are important and can count on time with both parents. The point that matters is Quality of time rather than Quantity of time.
First, I recommend that whoever picks up the child, spend the ride home hearing about the child’s day or just talking to a very young child if no conversation is yet possible. Upon arriving home, don’t do anything until you have spent l5 minutes with the child. this way, the child does not have to compete with other household tasks for attention. At the end of l5 minutes, the child has had his time first. Go ahead, and do what needs to be done. If the child is old enough, include him and ask for his help. It is a good idea for the parent arriving later to do the same thing.
Second, keep a calendar for the family readily visible. Mark on it if the child is old enough, a set time daily for the child or children, separately. This can be, again, l5 minutes–30 if possible. This can be an activity time for you and the child–reading a book before bed, or watching a favorite channel on television. This is the time that the child knows will arrive each day and belongs to him or her with you. This serves to decrease anxiety and becomes a dependable part of routine–something on which children thrive.
Another tip is to include older children in helping in the household. This serves to make them feel an integral part of the family and the society in which they live.We want children to feel that they matter, that they contribute meaningfully, and that they are loved. Some families without two parents who work do not accomplish this. So, it becomes a matter of HOW time is managed, rather than HOW MUCH time is available.