Becoming a Working Mom (Or Dad)

Part Two From the Career Crossroads Series

Working mom with her newborn baby
••• Reggie Casagrande / Getty Images

Have you decided to become a working mom (or dad) after starting your family? First, put your mind at ease. You aren't harming your child. 

As a new parent, you may be worried that using non-maternal child care will be detrimental to your child's development. You may want one parent to stay home, but either can't afford it or worry that taking time off will affect your career. Or you may not want to take a break from your career. There is no right or wrong decision, but you should know that whether you choose to be a stay-at-home or working parent, your child will be just fine.

Study of Early Child Care

In 1991 The National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) began a study that was originally called the Study of Early Child Care (SECC). The title changed to the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD).

Researchers looked at the relationships between child care experiences, child care characteristics and children's developmental outcomes and found that children who were cared for exclusively by their mothers did not develop differently than those who were also cared for by others" (Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH, DHHS. (2006). The NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD): Findings for Children up to Age 4 1/2 Years (05-4318). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office). This should put your worries to rest.

How Do You Find Quality Child Care?

How do you determine which type of child care to use? Some working moms and dads feel their babies will benefit from interacting with other children and therefore choose a childcare center or other group setting. Others prefer the one-on-one attention a child receives from a private babysitter or nanny who watches only their family's children.

Choosing between the types of child care is only the first decision you will have to make. Next, you will have to evaluate a particular provider, whether it is an individual or a childcare center.

Balancing Family and Career

Regardless of what stage you are at in your career, as a working mom or dad, you may struggle to find a balance between your job and your family. Mothers usually, but not always, have more difficulty than fathers do because they take on the bulk of household responsibilities. This situation can lead to frustration and exhaustion. And there's also the motherhood penalty. 

Working all day and then coming home to a young child can be difficult. You've put all your energy into doing your job well—answering to your boss's, co-workers', clients', and employees' demands. The last thing you may feel like doing is responding to your child's. However, these thoughts just make you feel guilty. How do you resolve this?

One option is to cut your hours and work part-time if you can afford it. You may also look into temporary employment which would allow you to choose when you want to work. Keep in mind that these options can, however, negatively impact your ability to advance in your career, or may not be financially feasible for your family. You can ask your employer if you can work a flexible work schedule that might include four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days or a start and end time that allows you to avoid rush hour traffic. You may also find out if you can work from home as a telecommuter a few days a week.