Should I continue to work or stay home with my baby?

by Sana
(India)

I am a mother of an 18-month-old boy, and I am myself 22. I leave my son behind to go to a 9 to 4 job. My son is a very happy baby. He never complains about it, but somewhere in my mind I am feeling very guilty that I am leaving him behind. There is my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to look after him. Though I would love to leave the job for him, but my husband is very much strict on the point of me not leaving the job. What should I do? Should I listen to my instinct or my husband? I feel that my son needs me. I miss him like hell. Please help me out.


Reply from Darlene: Sana, you are experiencing what almost every working mother experiences: "guilt" at leaving your child behind. The vast majority of women who work outside the home do so because of financial need; perhaps this is so in your case, perhaps not. But regardless, your question goes much deeper than a simple yes or no.

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Jul 17, 2008
Not a simple yes or no answer...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Sana, I must reply in two parts. The first will address the issue of the society in which you live; the second, whether or not your child will be harmed by you working full time.

If you live in a patriarchal society where men rule women, your actions will be controlled by your husband; failure to follow his rules could result in dire consequences for you. If this is the case, before you can make a decision about whether or not to go against your husband's wishes, you must take into account the possible danger for you. I don't know enough about your culture to be able to give you advice. I don't know if your husband would be open-minded enough to consider the possibility that you are in a better position to be your son's primary caregiver than your family members. Only you can determine this. Only you can decide if your husband is in any way approachable about the subject.

As for whether or not your child will be emotionally harmed if you decide to work full time depends on several factors. Studies repeatedly show that as long as children receive loving and nurturing care and appropriate discipline, even if that care and discipline is not by a biological parent, they do not suffer emotionally. However, based on what you've described to me in your query, your emotional state will most definitely affect your son in a negative way.

Even though your son is only 18 months old, he will be able to sense that you are in turmoil, but he won't know why. It is the nature of children to blame themselves for all that goes wrong in their world, including what is going wrong with his/her parents. In other words, he will wonder what he did to make Mommy sad, angry, etc. Furthermore, studies show that parents who find it distressing to work outside the home often parent out of guilt--they tend to be inconsistent with discipline, fail to provide structure and fail to set appropriate boundaries for their child. Such inconsistencies and lack of boundaries and structure creates confusion and mayhem for the child. Children need limits. They need to know the consequences of their actions and inactions in order to grow into healthy, contributing adults.

Sana, if you cannot convince your husband to allow you to stay at home to raise your son, you must find a way to resolve your negative thoughts and emotions about this; otherwise, your son may well have to face his own emotional turmoil. You said he's a happy baby. It sounds as though he is being well cared for. Enjoy the time you do have with him, and be consistent with your parenting. That is one of the best gifts you can give your son.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

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