Returning to Work after Childbirth
The question of when to return to work after giving birth weighs heavily on the minds of many pregnant woman. In the United States, the vast majority of women with children of preschool age or younger are part of the work force, and the rate is increasing throughout the world. This can be troublesome in an age in which women are still widely expected to be the primary caregivers for young children, and the issue is further complicated by the physical and emotional difficulties surrounding the post-childbirth return to work.
Childcare experts differ on whether it is always better for the child to have at least one parent not in the workforce, but the question is moot for many families who need two incomes to make ends meet. If you are on the fence about the issue, here are some points to keep in mind as you consider a return to work:
- Closeness: Daily closeness with a new child is essential to good parenting, and many new parents worry that entering the workforce will hurt the parent-child relationship and consequently hinder the child’s development. However, if you leave your child in the hands of a caring professional or a loving family member, this will not be an issue. Meanwhile, if going to work will make you happier, more comfortable, and more fulfilled, this will only contribute to a healthy home environment.
- Money: If you must work to make ends meet in the household, then your decision is easy. The security provided by your employment will be immensely better than the insecurity and stress that would come with continued unemployment. If your partner makes enough to provide the household yet you still have a desire to work, consider ways to further your career without being out of the home full-time.
- Career: Are you working toward ambitious goals? If so, pursuing them now will be better for your family in the long-run, as long as you can find a good work-life balance.
- Stress: It takes a lot of time to care for a baby, especially during the first year. Will you be able to handle the pressures of caring for your baby while you are also working?
- Compromise: It would be incorrect to assume that only mothers face these issues. Stay-at-home dads are increasingly common, while many modern families find ways to split the childcare duties so that both parents can work and care for the child more-or-less equally. Would your partner be open to such an arrangement?
Whatever you decide to do, do not feel guilty about it. Working away from home does not mean that you cannot do your duty as a parent. In fact, as already mentioned, working may provide valuable security and comfort that benefit the household atmosphere.
Meanwhile, modern technology makes it possible for many new parents to telecommute at least part of the time. If you think this might be an option, talk to your boss. Many employers are reluctant to go this route, so you might want to start with a relatively moderate proposal. For example, suggest that you work at home only a couple of days a week or that you perform certain tasks from your home office. It never hurts to ask.
Once you do decide to return to work, the next concern is finding a reliable childcare provider either at home or in a safe, stimulating facility. Many dual-income households can afford to hire a professional to provide in-home care while the parents are at work, but most parents opt to use out-of-home childcare providers. If you are not sure where to find one, ask your friends and neighbors if they have any recommendations. Your doctor may also know a good facility.
By Lisa Pecos