Returning To Work DOES NOT Harm Your Baby

Returning To Work DOES NOT Harm Your Baby


If you're back at work and feeling guilty about leaving your baby or being guilt tripped by others, here's an academic report to report to warm your heart and send on to the critics.

Guess what, a happy mum equals a happy baby and future happy child.

Academics at University College London found that there were 'no detrimental effects' resulting from mothers going back to work.

The best arrangement for children's emotional stability is a home in which both parents are in paid jobs, partly because mothers who work are less likely to be depressed, the study concluded.

The findings follow previous warnings that children's health and emotional wellbeing can suffer if their mothers go back to work too soon.

According to earlier studies, the children of working mothers are more likely to develop bad eating habits, take less exercise and become overweight than those of stay-at-home mothers.

The United Nations Children's Fund warned that children could be suffering because maternity leave provision in the UK is 'inadequate', while a separate international study found earlier this year that British working mothers spent just 81 minutes per day looking after their children.

However, the latest report, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, suggested that parents who are struggling to combine paid work with family life need not fear that they are undermining their children's emotional wellbeing.

Dr Anne McMunn, the lead researcher in the study, said mothers who worked full time were least likely to have children with emotional or behavioural problems, such as hyperactivity, aggression, tantrums or becoming worried or clingy.

'Some studies have suggested that whether or not mothers work in the first year of a child's life can be particularly important for later outcomes,' Dr McMunn said.

'In this study we did not see any evidence for a longer-term detrimental influence on child behaviour of mothers working during the child's first year of life.

'Children whose mothers were not working at all had the most behaviour difficulties, followed by children whose mothers were in part-time work,' she said.

The academics analysed results from the Millennium Cohort Study, which tracks the development of almost 19,000 children born in 2000 and 2001, to find the links between parents' working patterns and children's social wellbeing.

The report found children of single mothers and those in homes where both parents were unemployed were 'much more likely' to behave badly by the age of five.

Dr McMunn said mothers who were out of work were also more likely to be depressed and to have children with social and emotional problems.

'The mothers who were not working were more likely to be depressed,' she said. 'When we include that in our models it does explain some of those increased behaviour problems in children.'

Where only one parent worked, there were significant 'role model' influences on children's emotional wellbeing.

Boys growing up in homes where the mother was the breadwinner were more likely to show signs of aggression or unhappiness at the age of five than boys in households where both parents were working.

The opposite was true for girls. In traditional male-breadwinner homes, girls were more likely to have behavioural problems than in families in which both parents worked.

Dr McMunn suggested that ministers should develop policies to help both parents stay in employment. 'One message would be that the best situation for children was two parent families where both parents were working,' she said.

'Maternal employment and parental employment is good for families and children.

'If we can find ways to support families so that both parents can work and still combine child rearing and family life, then it is probably going to have a positive effect for children in terms of their socio-emotional behaviour.'

Now all we need is affordable childcare.

Here at Parentdish, we think there is no 'right way' to family life - we do the best we can with the best of intentions within financial restraints.

Do you read these often contradictory reports and worry you're doing the right thing - working full-time, part-time, staying at home?

Do you believe the bottom line is happy mum equals happy child?

Do you think these reports are always going to be skewed by parental background, expectations, wealth? Tell us what you think.