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Motherhood: Making Choices About Working

There are other things about working that are good for a mother, but it's possible to enjoy each of them without going off to a job, depending on the all-important details of your own situation. Knowing this gives you the choice of seeking that benefit through work or through other arrangements.
  • Access to health resources. A good job (usually) offers health insurance and money for doctors, but your husband's occupation may already provide those without your needing to work.
  • Sense of equality and clout with your husband. Bringing home a paycheck can help you to feel that you are on an equal footing with him and give you more say in how money is spent and the family is run, but some relationships operate that way when the mother doesn't work.
  • General sense of accomplishment and recognition. This need may already be fully satisfied by being a full-time mother.
  • Camaraderie and support with other people. You may already be fortunate to have a strong sense of community with friends, neighbors, and other mothers.
  • Respite from children. Definitely a benefit, but it's usually possible to get a break by taking steps such as swapping childcare with a friend, or enrolling your child in one more morning at the preschool.

The Options for Working
The main options include:

  • No work at all. Your partner, others (such as relatives), or savings support the family financially. Maybe you deliberately take on some debt, knowing you can return to work in a few years, and that a person's income normally rises as she gets older and more experienced, Benefits: Provides maximum time with your child, and easiest way to keep breast feeding. Drawbacks: you may feel isolated, unstimulated, or stressed with no relief.
  • Be a student. More flexible scheduling than most jobs, often with more childcare. Class load can be increased or decreased depending on the needs of you and your family. Much schoolwork can be done at home, or all of it through distance learning. Classes could be related to current career, or you could go in a new direction; check with your accountant, but the costs may be tax deductible. Benefits: A very direct way to satisfy the hunger for intellectual stimulation. Drawbacks: No income from you, additional costs for tuition and books, and a potential disruption of nursing.
  • Part-time. You could cut back your hours, job share, or work as a temp. Perhaps the most common job choice for mothers of young children. Benefits: You get to keep one leg planted in the world of work and bring in some money. Drawbacks: Usually means stepping off the fast track of career advancement, a fairly rapid weaning (if your baby is still breast feeding), and additional income is offset by extra childcare costs.
  • Full-time. Benefits: Maximum income and career opportunities. Drawbacks: Maximum dependence on childcare, time away from children, and potential tension between home and office. Even greater impact on breast-feeding than part-time work.
  • Telecommuting. Benefits: Eliminates the commute and allows you to shift gears more smoothly between mother mode and work mode. Drawbacks: Can be hard to fend off a young child who knows you're in the house, and hard to get much work done. Often goes well if you have in-home childcare, or if child is being cared for elsewhere some of the time you're home.
  • Self-employed. Could be full- or part-time, at home or at your own office. Benefits: You're the boss, so it's not necessary to persuade anyone that you need some time off. Offers the satisfaction and potential financial rewards of building your own business. Drawbacks: Burden of responsibility and financial risks.

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From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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