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To Stay at Home or Return to Work?

Stresses of Salaried Mommies
To my eyes anyway, women who worked full-time at relatively family-friendly companies seemed ever so slightly healthier. Their children were in day care and at least not presently exhibiting ax-murderer tendencies. These women retained some confidence, and a modicum of salary-fueled decision-making power in their households.

Of course these wonder-women were utterly stressed out and secretly ashamed to welcome the start of a workweek when they could leave their children in the care of others. They also missed some of parenthood's biggest rewards – first steps or first poops in potties, or school pageants in which kindergarteners wore bonnets and warbled songs about springtime. The two or three hours after work with their children were stomach-taut tense, as everyone was exhausted and grumpy, homework and baths beckoned, and dinner was thrown together. To top it off, a child's cold or fever inspired negotiations between spouses and Palm Pilots more complex than those that precede treaty signings.

Only in glossy magazines in the height of the dotcom boom can I find examples of parents successfully tag-teaming child care, through shift work or reduced schedules for both mom and dad. Only through friends of friends of friends do I hear about "sequencing" and moms who gracefully surrender work to raise children, only to return to career success years later.

I once read about an executive at IKEA who was encouraged to nurse her baby during an interview for a promotion, but know no one who has experienced anything remotely similar. I also read about stay-at-home dads, but I don't know a single one in my child-filled neighborhood. According to statistics, dads who take over the role of primary caregiver do so mostly as a stopgap or emergency measure. Studies show only 20 percent of dads serving as primary caregivers will still be numero uno parent two years later.


From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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