Maintaining a full-time career while raising children is no easy task for parents. It is especially difficult for working mothers who have to endure judgement from society and hostility at the office.
This is the third article in a series on working mums. Here are the other articles in the series:
1. Is it possible for working mums to have work-life balance?
2. Top 5 challenges working mums face and how to overcome them.
While more men are becoming increasingly supportive in the home, women are still expected to be the main caregivers. So when a mother chooses to raise her kids along a full-time career, a lot is put in question.
For instance, when a child falls ill, is abused or a similar problem arises, the mum is blamed for not being home for the child. Rarely is the father blamed.
“If only she had been home looking after her child, this would not have happened.” You will hear some say in hushed tones. Some stay-at-home mums will be quick to comment and say things like: “Why do mothers leave their babies alone with nannies? I could never be that mean to my little angel.”
A study conducted in 25 countries shows that working mothers raise more successful daughters than stay-at-home mothers. Daughters of working mothers are better educated, higher paid and more likely to be employed in supervisory roles.
In contrast, it’s worth noting that a woman choosing to stop working to raise her children doesn’t necessarily guarantee better child development.
But, even as the advantages of having a working mother increase with every generation, disadvantages are not exempt.
In this article, we share 4 challenges that children of working mothers face. We also share what can be done to avert or recover from these challenges.
Challenges affecting children of working mothers
1. Poor early childhood development
The first years of a child are the most crucial. Brain development is usually at its peak during this time. Throughout these years, high-quality support is highly recommended and lack of it could mean harmful effects on a child.
For this reason, working mothers need to hire nannies who are up to the challenge. The same is true for day-care centres. Unfortunately, what we sometimes perceive to be of high quality is not always the case.
You may hire someone you think is the perfect nanny only to regret later. For instance, working mums who have hired very quiet nannies notice a change in their bubbly kids. They tend to become more withdrawn and start talking later than their age-mates.
To counter this, working mothers can keep a daily record of their child’s progress to notice any changes as soon as they occur.
2. Higher chances of kids associating with bad company
If you are a working mum who travels a lot and is absent from your children’s lives, chances of your kids falling into the bad company are very high.
Every day of a child’s life is a story to tell. Children want to talk to their parents about that bully in class, the boy being inappropriate, the stranger who is always offering them candy, and the cute boy or girl they like. When they get older, the list of things to talk about is endless.
So when they can’t speak to you about these life changing moments, they turn to the next best person. Unfortunately, the next person can be anyone, increasing the chances of your child making friends with the wrong crowd.
To avoid this, you can assure your child that you’re always there to listen. While it might be draining to listen to your child go on about their day when you are extremely tired, this effort will pay off in the end. Even when on a trip, allow them to talk to you over the phone or have a video chat about their day.
3. Disconnect between mother and child
This is a disadvantage linked to number 2 above. As one of the working mothers in Kenya, you probably try very hard to make it to your kid’s events. But sometimes, there are circumstances that may lead you into a series of absences.
While your absence may have been unplanned, a child may feel like their working mum does not care. This situation gets worse when their friends’ mums are always showing up and you’re not.
To avoid disconnect, you can always reassure your kids by taking time from your busy schedule to surprise them with family time. You don’t always have to wait for the next sports day, home project, or Sunday lunches to connect with your children.
4. High risk of falling into depression
The constant absence of a mum in their children’s lives can lead to depression. This is especially so when the child believes that their mum would rather work than spend time with them.
Through the celebrations of World Health Day earlier this year, we learnt that Kenya is the 6th most depressed country in Africa. It also emerged that depression affects more children between ages 5 and 15 years today than it did a decade ago.
With such statistics, we cannot afford to assume that a child who is sad, angry, irritable, withdrawn or sleeping too much is normal.
Also, we can’t ignore the constant stories we see in the media about children who have harmed others or committed suicide.
If you pick up these signs in your children for a prolonged period, say more than two weeks, it could be they are depressed. Talk to them and convince them to open up.
When they do open up, avoid downplaying their feelings. It could make the situation worse, leading to suicidal thoughts or other equally destructive actions.
Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional counsellor or therapist if you feel that your child is depressed or having challenges coping with life.
If you are a working mother, feel confident about your decision to be a career mum. Love what you do and do it to the best of your ability. But even so, remember to mind the effect your significant absence will have on your children.
Whatever a child believes in their early stages of life will mostly become part of their life as they move into adulthood. Keep this in mind as a mother and help your children build positive character traits.
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Is there a crucial disadvantage we’ve left out? Let us know in the Comments.