Mom, Please Give Me Time!
By Sahar Kassaimah
It is often said that motherhood is a full time job requiring not only time but determination and a lot of energy.
However, there is a growing concern about mothers choosing to work outside the home. Can working mothers find a balance between professional life and family life?
We are not debating here which is better - being at home full-time or working outside the home - because it is not always possible for mothers to stay at home. Circumstances vary by family and by family structure; a single mother may not have the option of staying at home. And although the primary reason is usually financial, numerous factors play a part in contributing to a family's final decision about whether the mother will work outside.
There is no doubt that it is more beneficial for a family, particularly for the children, for the mother to be a full-time mom - almost always there for them and with enough time and energy to take care of the family's needs. No one can deny that when a mother works outside the home, she generally has less time, energy, and patience for her kids. She is not as available for her children to talk to, and laugh, play, and study with.
However, although we may agree that it is better for mothers to stay at home if at all possible, it does not mean that working mothers cannot be good mothers who raise healthy and happy kids. Moreover, it does not follow that all stay-at-home mothers will raise healthier and happier kids than will working mothers. Although some mothers are physically available for their children, they do little to fulfill their children's needs, and some working mothers manage to give their kids more quality time and attention than some stay-at-home moms. It is a mistake to base our evaluation of effective mothering on only one factor since there are many others that can affect the mother-child relationship.
Since many women choose to work outside of the home because of financial needs, they might want to consider that additional earnings can often be acquired through the operation of a home business or a part-time job that limits the number of hours mothers are away from their children.
According to columnist Lisa Schulman, "One of the most important benefits (of staying-at-home mothers) is being able to observe and contribute to the child's development. Often, parents perceive that the care provided at home is more comprehensive than the standard day care. In addition, the stay-at-home parent has the assurance that the child is being raised in a healthy, positive environment" (2001).
The first growth stages of our children are the most important years of all. There is an Arabic saying: Learning in the first stages of life is like carving on stones, while learning in the later years is like drawing on water.
Parents must take advantage of the early stages of their children's lives and remember that if we lose these days of their childhood innocence, we will lose our best chance to achieve certain goals with our children. Remember also that one day we will reap what we have sown. Now, we are here for our children, and tomorrow they will be there for us. If we ameliorate their nurturing, they will ameliorate their reciprocation.
Even though it is better for mothers to stay at home, working moms need not be apologetic or feel guilty. The thought that they must keep at the forefront of their minds is that ALL moms must make time for their children. If, instead of spending time on the phone or at the mall or blaming themselves for what they feel they did not give, they make sure that they spend the time they have engaged in meaningful activity and conversation with their children, they can compensate for the time they spend away from them.
Gayle Peterson, Ph.D., and columnist on the Family Therapist website says, "It is the quality of the parent-child relationship that matters. Mothers that are fulfilled themselves are not only good role models for their children, but are happier people too!… Research bears out what common sense tells us - that happier women make happier mothers, whether they work outside the home or not" (2001).
Tips for balancing work and children include choosing quality daycare for our children, and staying in touch with their teachers if they are school-aged. Furthermore, we can take advantage of the weekends to spend time and engage in activities with them such as sharing our plans, going on picnics, and reading or telling stories.
Our children need us when we are not too tired or preoccupied to listen, or too overworked to enjoy spending time with them. According to Dr. Peterson, it is important, even when we feel tired, to "establish daily routines that promote sharing, such as checking in with your child at dinnertime and tucking them in at bedtime. Save 15 to 25 minutes per day to relate one-on-one with your child. Even teenagers enjoy a back rub and will talk to you as they relax at the end of a long day. And you may be surprised how relaxed you feel when you end your day connecting with your child" (2001).
Also, sharing opinions, ideas and plans in weekly family meetings can strengthen family bonds.
Dr. Peterson also says, "Research studies show that low self-esteem in children is correlated with low parental contact at home. Your children will do well if you show interest in them, whether you work outside the home or not" (2001).
Peterson, Gayle. "Questions and Answers." Family Therapist. March 25, 2001.
Schulman, Lisa. "Stay At Home Or Work Part-time?" Family Therapist. March 25, 2001.