Work after Baby: Should You Stay Home or Should You Go Back?

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Will you go back to work after Baby is born? Or do you think you want to stay home? Making this decision is a difficult for many moms-to-be. Take a look at what moms and experts suggest to help ensure you make the best decision for both you and your family.

To stay at home or to go back to work is a dilemma so many moms-to-be face. Chances are you’ve asked yourself this question. Are you happy with your choice? Or are you feeling like you’ve made the wrong decision?

To get a better perspective, let’s look at some questions about both working outside the home, and staying/working at home.

If you’re a new mom who’s planning to go back to work, no doubt you have some questions and concerns. There are so many benefits to working, of course; earning money and having time away without children are two big pluses. But do these benefits outweigh the anxiety you may have after Baby arrives?

Family Finances

Worry: I’m concerned that if I don’t choose to work, I won’t be able to afford a comfortable living.

What the Experts Say: “I’ve had clients who were in dire financial straits and making half a million dollars per year, and I’ve had other people with a modest income who have really prioritized,” says Kate Wolf-Pizor, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Palo Alto, California. Those who felt they were in a terrible situation were spending as if they were both working, without taking time to anticipate finances.

She says, “Setting priorities and goals both for now and for the future can help a couple (in any income bracket) to put together a life plan which will be a valuable tool for spending and saving. The actual income needs should be established before folks decide what they must do.”

Whether or not you feel comfortable is really a subjective thing. What does comfort mean to you? Mothers have to tell themselves, “I’m not going to be comfortable if I’m not doing what I think is right,” says Wolf-Pizor.

What You Can Do: Mothers who work in order to have a financially comfortable living need to consider their happiness and the happiness of their family when considering going back to work. Wolf-Pizor says that mothers need to let their children see that what they’re doing is going to help support the family, and that is a good thing. If Mom is worried about working, then her children will also feel that anxiety.

Wolf-Pizor points out that working moms contribute directly to their family’s well beingand if they’re feeling apologetic about going to work, they may not share positive work experiences with their children. A great way to get kids to understand what mom is up to is to show them. Bring your kids to the office and let them see where you sit, eat, and work. Also, explain to them what you like about working.

As well as having a choice to make about working personally, you also have to decide as a couple if you’re making the choice that’s right for both of you. Making solo decisions can hurt your marriage; both you and your partner need to participate in this decision-making process. “Any time we take action before we’ve talked it through with our partners, the less likely we are to have it come out well,” says Wolf-Pizor.

Childcare

Worry: I’m concerned about my son being closer to his caregiver than to me.

What Moms Say: A mother of two, Allison Schut worried that her son Nathon would be confused about who his mother was; he spent all day at the sitter’s house and cried when Schut came to pick him up.

What You Can Do: “I found a sitter who was excellent about giving me detailed updates on [my son’s] day, everything from his moods to his sleeping, eating, and pooping. That makes a really big difference when it comes to feeling included in your kid’s day,” Schut says.

Schut adds that she was able to work only the shifts that she wanted to, so she still spent a lot of time with her son. Being a nurse meant that Schut was able to work a “casual” shift (she wasn’t actually scheduled for regular times every week). When she was called in for work, Shut could say yes or no to the shifts she was offered.

Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, MD, a clinical psychologist, author, and founder of Womenspeak.com in Missouri says not to worry. “Bonding begins at birth and depends on the mother-child interaction,” she says. “There is no research to suggest that the more time she spends with the baby will ensure bonding will be better or worse.”

Family Time

Worry: I’m concerned that if I go to work I won’t get to enjoy spending enough time with my kids.

What the Experts Say: “The same old problem that we have—to work or not to work—is one that keeps us not feeling very good,” says Wolf-Pizor. Very often, working women worry that they’re not giving their children the same quality time stay-at-home moms offer.

What You Can Do: According to Wolf-Pizor, the most important thing for moms to ask themselves is, “How is my child going to be cared for, and by whom?” Wolf-Pizor says that the parents and the larger family (grandparents and close friends) need to make these decisions together so that Mom doesn’t need to face this decision alone and without support. When a mother knows that she’s not isolated in making these choices, especially when considering childcare, she can relax and worry less about being away from her child.

Now a stay-at-home mom, Amber Brotnov, from Washington, returned to work seven weeks after her son was born.”I was most worried about missing time with him if I [kept] working,” she says. “He didn’t do well either, he didn’t want to take a bottle and cried constantly most days he was at daycare. When I quit my job, he was five months old—I was so relieved and I think he was, too.”

Moms who decide to work from home or quit their jobs and become stay-at-homes have many concerns to contend with as well. Here are some common worries and possible solutions from experts and moms alike.

Just-for-Mom Time

Worry: I’m worried that if I stay at home I won’t get enough “me” time away from the kids.

What Moms Say: Lots of moms wonder if they make the decision to stay home instead of return to an out-of-the-home job that they’ll be sacrificing much-needed alone time. It is important for moms to know that it is OK to take time away just for themselves—whether they leave for work every day or choose to stay home. However, this wasn’t a concern for Brotonov. “I wasn’t worried about losing ‘me’ because being a mom is ‘me’,” she says. “Before I had kids I had all the ‘me time’ in the world, and someday I will again. This is their time.”

What You Can Do: “It is so essential to make sure that your tank is full,” says Wisconsin-based life coach and psychotherapist Michelle Bersell. If you work or stay at home it really doesn’t matter. It is so important to take time alone when you need it, and not feel guilty. If you take time for yourself, “you will have an abundance of love and energy to give to your children.”

Bersell says that even if it’s a walk or finding an old hobby that you love, taking time to yourself will help to make you a better mother, and that is the best present you can give your kids. Getting a sitter every now and then can make a world of difference when it comes to getting your own time. Check in your local neighborhood newspaper, or round up a family member to come over for an hour or two.

Dr. O’Reilly agrees that babysitters are key. She suggests sharing childcare with friends and neighbors. This time will help mothers “rest and revive,” she says.

Returning to Your Career

Worry: If I stay home, I’m afraid I won’t feel like I’m contributing by bringing in an income or I won’t be able to return to work later, when I’m ready.

What the Experts Say: “Mothers may worry that it will be really hard to re-enter the job market after having been home with the kids; they may also feel that their career is passing them by,” says Marilyn Fettner, master career development professional of Fettner Career Consulting in Illinois.

What You Can Do: Fettner says that it is tough to decide to give up your career to stay at home, but even if you’re not contributing financially, you are still giving your family a precious commodity—you, and your time.

However, there are still some ways that you can help contribute to your future income, even if you are at home. Fettner recommends you keep your skills sharp and gain work history for your resume by taking on volunteer work or working at a flexible, part-time job. These things can help make you a viable part of the work force, even while you’re at home with your kids.

There are financial pros and cons for both going back to work (the added income is essential for some families) or staying at home. Brotnov is happy to be staying home and says the money she saves on childcare is enough for her to feel that she’s made the right choice financially and emotionally.

What Will Other People Think?

Worry: I’m worried that if I stay home I’ll be seen as someone that is “having fun” all day when lounging or shopping, when in fact I’m working hard taking care of our children and our home.

What Moms Say: “Sometimes [my husband] makes comments about me getting to do what I want all day, and that can make me really mad. But on the weekends, after a few hours with the kids, he usually makes a comment like ‘I don’t know how you do this’,” says Brotnov.

What You Can Do: “I remind [my husband] how much work it is with the kids, and he usually apologizes,” says Brotnov. “I also cope with it by realizing that most days I really am getting to do what I want. I get to stay home with my kids, play with them, eat with them, take them to the park, and go on play dates with friends. I also get to talk on the phone to my friends and can occasionally take a nap when the babies are sleeping.”

Whether you and your partner decide that you should seek work outside the home or stay at home to raise your kids full time; this is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Author and creator of MojoMom.com, Dr. Amy Tiemann, PhD, has put a lot of time into this issue and says: “I encourage moms to be prepared to take their careers into their own hands if necessary. Entrepreneurship is a strategy women can use to remain employed while raising a family.”

If you’re not into starting your own business, just think about what will make you happy and go for it. “I could have waited longer before finding a job, but working in a rural hospital offers so much variety and experience that I didn’t think I should pass it up,” says Schut.

For stay-at-home mom Brotnov, this decision came after she had been working, “I feel it’s best for babies to be with their mommies and also better for your marriage; that way on the weekends you can relax together and not spend all your time running around doing errands and shopping.”

With financial consideration, agreement between partners and family and the support of your extended family, hopefully you will come to a conclusion that everyone can be happy with. When mom is happy, all is well with the world.

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