- Written by Peace Loise Mbae for KenyaKidz
The end of the tree month maternity leave is an agonizing and difficult time for many working mothers leaving many feeling guilty for ‘abandoning’ their babies causing low productivity, loss of employment and even resigning from their careers and fulfilling jobs.
With lack of preparedness and the stipulated maternity considered barely enough, many mothers get back to work anxious and unhappy affecting both their jobs and their baby’s wellbeing.
”I remember crying all the way to work that day. I felt like I was leaving my baby when she needed me the most. Even if I used to leave early from work I felt the time was not enough and quit my job,” said Everlyne Muthoni, a new mother, and journalist.
Although there is always the option of quitting to be with your baby, mothers who do not prepare for this transition go through a lonely and depressing time of guilt and regret causing development implications to their children according to a 2008 research by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University.
The study found that children of mothers who went back to work within the first three years were slower learners, and a 2008 Unicef study recommended that mothers risk their children’s development if they do not stay home for the first 12 months.
However, a 2010 study by New York's Columbia University School of Social Work found that there is no adverse effect on the child if the parents prepare well, which is a relief for mothers like Sophia who find themselves in such a situation.
"The good news is that we can see no adverse effects," said American academic Jane Waldfogel, currently a visiting professor at the London School of Economics.
"This research is very unique because we have always asked in the past whether there is an effect on children development if mothers go back to work, but of course everything else doesn't stay constant, so it's an artificial way of looking at things.”
The study said that while there are disadvantages to mothers taking work during their child's first year, there were also significant advantages – such as an increase in mothers' income and wellbeing, with a higher possibility that children would receive quality childcare rendering the net effect neutral.
"The effect of the parenting itself is the key factor," said Waldfogel. "It is hugely important how sensitive one is to their child's needs. Even for women working for more than 30 hours a week, they can make things better, they just need to take a breather on the doorstep, leave all the worries of the office and prepare to pay full attention to their children’s needs.”
Taking this into account, mothers are encouraged to prepare by doing the following before getting back to work;
• Create a daily schedule
• Train your baby to sleep schedule
• Get a nanny/babysitter or pay for daycare
• Prepare stock of pumped breast milk
• Emotionally- Separation anxiety- Train by getting used to leaving your baby with your partner/babysitter for a few hours
Working mom guilt- Get a credible caregiver, check on the baby regularly, overcompensate by spending more time with your baby over the weekend
• Alone time- Enroll for yoga, morning or event jog, professional help e.g. pediatrician, psychologist to avoid being overwhelmed when you get back to work.