Working Mothers, A Blessing Or Curse?

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In these modern days, men are no longer the sole breadwinner and the women, the homemaker. Statistics show that dual-income families are now becoming a societal norm. In the United Kingdom (UK), BBC News reported a significant leap of the number of women in the workforce, which rose to 11.5 million (1999) from a mere figure of 900,000 (1988) in just one decade. The change accounts for a 1278% increase of women in the workforce! Economist at the University of Chicago Casey B. Mulligan who wrote for the New York Times confirmed that women as a percentage of the entire workforce is steadily increasing.

The question however remains if women should really work at all. Some argue that women should follow the traditional practice of staying at home and play their customary responsibilities to be the stay-at-home mother and wife.
A spokeswoman for the National Family and Parenting Institute in the UK said that "This debate has been rumbling on for a long time without getting anywhere... Findings like this have a massive effect on the self-esteem and levels of guilt experienced by working parents."

The main reason of women joining the workforce is purely financial. As the prices of goods are increasing globally, women are left with no choice but to go back to work to help provide an additional income to the family. Therefore, it is quite difficult to draw the line as to whether it is a curse or a blessing to have a dual-income family.

Issues of women going back to work also open the gate to newer potential family conflicts, even more so with the implementation of new laws protecting the equality of the sexes. This can arise from the disparity found in the incomes of both spouses. When the wife starts to work, men have a tendency to question their own value in the family structure. In some families, spouses also find themselves overwhelmed with jealousy or resentment over their partner’s career, especially in cases where the wife becomes the major wage earner in the family. In such cases, some husbands feel that their wives, forgetting that marriage is a partnership, automatically assume that they are in a better position to make all the decisions as to what is best for the family and even to dictate the family’s financial budget. Spouses who are in constant rivalry will definitely face a serious threat in their marriage. Therefore, it is very important for spouses to be attentive to each other’s needs as well as communicating effectively to share their own views and concerns.

Some documentaries and research were quite fast to conclude that there are no discernible adverse effects whatsoever on a child if the mother works. For example, the study conducted by Pinka Chatterji from the University at Albany revealed that maternal work hours are not associated with adverse effects on infants and their mothers. Nevertheless, another study published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research argued that the children of mothers who return to work full time in the years before they go to school generally have slower emotional development and score less well in reading and math tests. The finding that was reported on Guardian even went as far as saying that the child's chances of progressing to A-Levels is reduced by 10% in families whereby the mother makes an early return to work. Dr. Miriam Adahan, a psychologist and prolific author, also claims that children of working mothers may be vulnerable to the "abandoned baby syndrome". Children whose mothers do not know how to juggle their work and family responsibilities often feel left out and uncared for. Therefore, these children grow up to be "nasty and rebellious in their attempt to achieve a sense of power and win precious drops of attention", says Adahan.

It has never been easy for a working mother to strike a balance between work and home. Many women often feel a sense of guilt for leaving their children to go to work. Margaret Thatcher, the only former woman prime minister of the UK herself revealed to Lord Spicer, a senior conservative parliament, that she regretted of her career choice because of the effect it had had on her family life. A a mother of two children, Thatcher confessed that she has neglected her family during the course of her own career. Another ambitious and successful woman Sheryl Sandberg, the first woman to sit on Facebook's Board of Directors, is also a mother of two. She has observed that many women limit their opportunities for family, encouraging more women to live their dreams. When seen from another angle, women going to work can actually be a good thing. This allows room for both spouses to share equal responsibilities for child rearing and housework. The children then benefit from feeling the love and care from their father, when traditionally it was only the mother who played that role. Women joining the workforce therefore does promote a sense of partnership, which is crucial for a healthy marriage.

No doubt playing a dual role can be tiring for mothers. However, drawing up a good plan will help women juggle their responsibilities better. These are some useful tips as to how working mothers can handle the work-family balance effectively:

One can therefore resort to making a list of priorities so that the mother has a better picture of what she would like to accomplish. Striking out the tasks that she has completed can also give her a feeling of satisfaction for having successfully completed the tasks expected of her. It is also important that mothers learn the art of delegation. If necessary, she can delegate some of her responsibilities to her colleagues instead of trying to bear the entire burden on her shoulders. At home, the mother can also delegate some housework to her husband and her children. Carrying out household chores together is a also good opportunity for bonding between family members. Teaching the children to be more independent, the mother can also teach the children simple duties such as dressing up to go to school and preparing light meals for themselves.

One should also try not to bring their office workload back home. Any frustration faced at the workplace should not be vented on the children as it may lead to emotional scarring. To avoid children from suffering the "abandoned baby syndrome" as highlighted by Dr. Adahan in the above, working mothers could also allocate some of her time to listen to the children's wants and needs by holding regular family discussions. This will allow the children to vent out any frustrations or dissatisfactions, and also the mother to know what her children are going through, whether at home or school. Setting Sunday as a Family Day, which is dedicated only for the family to spend time together is also important. On this day, the children can look forward to going out on field trips or participate in activities whereby both parents are present.

Working mothers should also do their best in not missing important dates that mean a lot to their spouse and children (eg. birthdays, anniversaries etc.). Showing interest in a child's academic life is also very important. For example, attending the school's Parents-Teachers Day function can help boost the child's self-esteem as he or she feels that the mother still cares. At least they do not feel left out watching other children's parents attending the function while theirs did not.

Conclusively, although it may be challenging, so long women can set the work-family balance right, there is no reason why women cannot be allowed to work.

Authors: Genevieve Tan Shu Thung & Tey Sze Chze

Copyright © 2012 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources
Holistic Living Annex (JULY 2012)

3 Responses for “ Working Mothers, A Blessing Or Curse?”

  1. Carla says:

    Very well written Genevieve. The debate still stands today and I doubt anyone will ever reach a unanimous conclusion.

  2. Xtina says:

    I liked reading this article. Men, buckle up!! I am of the belief that women should go to work. This is what we call equality of the sexes. Women go to work, men help out at home.

  3. Anonymous says:

    even until today men still think women belong in the kitchen. i say that women should work and live a life of her own. just because a woman marries a man does not mean she has to give up her entire life for it. well done on this article


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