In New York a study has been published that says working mothers are healthier than stay-at-home mums. Apparently they are less depressed and report a better general overall health than mothers who stay at home full-time.
I don't know the best way to do things. I muddle through and try my best and hope no one gets to screwed up by my efforts at motherhood. For some reason there have been a lot of articles recently that have piqued my interest. There have been lots of pieces about being the best mother or woman or lover. I suspect most working mothers would be more concerned about what is best for their children than whether working makes them healthier.
However, the impact of a healthier mother is much better for everyone. Sometimes, doing what makes you happy has a positive outcome for everyone. The act of being a little selfish can be a good thing. I am heartened by that research. If I don't work and have something that feels like it is mine, I begin to feel a little loopy. I don't know if it's the same for everyone. I work in a creative industry so I have to get it out - to perform, to write or do something that feeds the furnace.
I have a friend who went to an expensive school in London - St Pauls - and was brought up to believe she would marry a banker, have lunch with friends and send her kids to St Pauls. Her mother never worked. My friend's life didn't quite pan out like that. She has to work. Her kids go to the local school and she feels cheated.
A working mother may be happier and healthier, but she also teaches her kids that you have to rely on yourself. You go out and get the money and provide for your family. Daughters learn that they work and sons learn that the women in their lives can have careers too - it's the norm.
I know many 'modern men' who think that they are enlightened and supportive of women having careers but when it boils down to it, they had a mother who was at home waiting for them and feel dissatisfied when their partner doesn't do that. I do feel guilty when I have to leave the kids with a sitter and go to work but when I come home to them and I am refreshed by having a few hours off and am ready to swamp them with cuddles and kisses. I am not irritated by their requests or their constant questions because I've not been around it all day.
Of course there has to be a balance. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving them day in day out with a nanny just as I think looking after them 24-7 would send me nuts. We all need space, even if it is from our children. When I come home from work I am there for them and feel a lot more emotionally available. What greater thing can you do for a child? At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, I really do believe that "a change is as good as a rest". With a change of location, you come back revived and refreshed. I can get loads done in a day if I am doing different things but if I just have to clean out the fridge? It can take hours. It's good to talk to some grown-ups too.
Work brings interactions with other adults that can be sorely missed in the early stages of raising young children. You may well have a husband or partner who comes home to you and you want to talk them through your day whilst he wants to talk about his work pressures. That's a conversation that never goes brilliantly. It can be even worse if you spend all day looking after the babies and once they are in bed, there is no one who comes home. That feels spectacularly isolating. What are you going to do? Log onto Facebook and spectate on everyone else's fun and full lives?
I'm always shocked by badly behaved children who are cheeky to their parents but the days when I feel like I am constantly telling mine off, I have to remind myself it's because I don't want the kids to be dicks. I want them to be responsible members of society who think about other people whilst looking out for others who may need a little help.
I like to think that being a working mother teaches them that and paves the way for a future generation with a sense of responsibility.