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How Does a Working Mother Affect Children?

by Erica Loop, studioD

In 2012, more than 68 percent of married mothers and 75 percent of single moms were in the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Whether you work full-time, part-time, during the school day or at night, working outside of the home will have some effect on your child. While these effects aren't always serious or the cause of life-long problems, they can lead to temporary issues that affect both you and your child.

The Harm Question

When you or one of your mommy friends decides to go back to work after having a baby, a common thought is, "Will my working harm my child?" This isn't to say that a mother thinks that actual physical harm will come to her child because she is working but that the child may suffer some sort of psychological ill effects. Although there is some degree of emotional upheaval -- and every child's individual reaction to mom working is different -- but there is no concrete evidence that shows a causal connection between a working mother and a child suffering serious psychological harm, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics on the Healthy Children.org website.


If you work outside of the home, you will spend considerable time away from your child. And like other mothers, this also means that you will have to find childcare for any child not of school age while you work. Instead of staying at home with mom, the child must spend her days at a childcare center or with a babysitter. While this can have positive effects on the child as she learns and develops in her daycare center, it can also have a temporary negative effect. Between 4 and 7 months, according to KidsHealth, most children develop object permanence, which underlies separation anxiety. Infants this age notice when mom leaves. Putting your child in the care of a center or of a new person while you are at work may cause a spike in separation anxiety. Although this will resolve over time, it can feel uncomfortable for both the parents and the child while it lasts.

Time for Family

Aside from spending the day at childcare or having a babysitter during after-school hours, time spent at work means you are giving up family time. This is particularly true for parents who have school-aged children and who work during nights and weekends. While you may feel sad or torn about having to spend time away from your family, your child will miss you just as much while you are away. Although your child may miss you, he can also understand that you have to work and that it doesn't mean you love him any less. If your little one is feeling that family activities just aren't the same without you, try to carve out special time to spend with him and take advantage of the time that you do have off.

Role Models

Working outside of the home doesn't always equal a negative effect on your child. The working mom can serve as a healthy role model for children, notes the AAP. Instead of only looking up to dad, your child can look at you and see that you are an independent, working woman. This can help kids, especially teens, get a better picture of what a woman can do and understand that breaking traditional roles, such as the man as the sole bread-winner, is a positive thing.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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