Gender stereotypes placed women as a weaker gender whose role was confined in household related chores and child care. Now things have changed and women are increasingly competing with men in the job market. As such, working mothers have also been actively involved in the workforce in the attempt to develop their careers while offering support to their families and children. Over 70 percent of women in the United States are in the workforce meaning even mothers are part of this workforce.
Unlike working fathers, working moms have been viewed differently in the society. When a mother is employed, there are various benefits that she brings to the family, and also various challenges face them. The most eminent benefits of working mothers include providing financial support to their family. Families with double income are well positioned to better opportunities in life for their children including improved nutrition, healthcare and a better education (Janis & Jacquelynne 937-943). Besides, working moms are a good role model to their daughters as they teach them that a woman is capable of doing activities that were previously perceived as men`s role. As such, their daughters learn to be independent.
Nevertheless, working mothers have negative influence on their family and children. When a mother is working, she spends less time with her children which have been linked with poor cognitive and behavioral development. Working mothers also risk their marriage as relationships between a working mother and a working husband who earns less or an entirely unemployed husband are likely to be jeopardized. This paper looks at the working mothers and the way it influences their relationships with children, spouse as well as the society.
For years, women have been considered the weaker gender. As a result, their roles used to be centered on household chores and child care while men went to work in the fields or outside the home to provide for the family. With time and with civilization and improvement in gender equality across cultures, especially in the developed world, women have entered the workforce in overwhelming numbers and have gained increasingly influential positions in the corporate and public domains. It is therefore commonplace to see women and mothers for that matter participate fully in the workforce, competing with their male counterparts. When a mother works, the traditional family roles or gender roles are altered somehow. Fathers` roles changes as they increasingly become engaged in household chores and child care in order to support their wives to be able to carry out their work effectively. Consequently, husbands of working mom may reschedule their work by maybe stopping overtime work, to accommodate the changes that come when a mother is working. In addition, children below school going age increasingly spend time in child care facilities in the case where both the father and the mother are working. According to DeJong, more than 70% of mothers in America with children who have not attained majority age are in the labor force which means they are working or seeking employment (75). Besides an increase in the number of working mothers, DeJong notes that mothers are increasingly working for longer than before (75). This has affected the time that mothers normally spend with their children. In addition, when a mother works, it means he adds on the family income which is a positive aspect. These changes have been the subject of discussion of most scholars with some arguing that working mothers affect their families negatively, while proponents argue that working mothers positively influence a family. This research paper seeks to explore working mothers and the impact it has on their children, family and society.
What is the Difference between Working Mothers and Stay at Home Mothers?
These two classes of moms are similar in the sense that their efforts are mostly directed at improving the lives of their families and more so their children. Working mothers work hard at the workplace to ensure that their families have food on the table and enjoy all good things in life. For instance, a teacher mom uses her salary to cater for family needs. Stay at home moms also work very hard at home to ensure that all things in the house run accordingly (Greenberg and Barrett 54-60). This includes doing laundry, cooking and general housekeeping. Both working moms and stay at home moms require the support of their spouses to manage their families well. Many working moms tend to rely more on their spouses to care for children while away at work. For example, a nurse mom tends to rely more on the spouse to baby sit young children. A stay-at-home mom is on the other hand is more financially dependent on the spouse.
Stay at home moms tend to spend more time with their children than working mothers. This is because many working mothers spend their time in the workplace away from their children while stay-at-home moms spend more time with their children. For instance, a teacher mom spends more time away from her baby during work hours while a stay-at-home mom spends more time with the baby. Although there exists differences between working mothers and stay home mothers, there is no a better mom than the other as all the efforts of the mother whether working or stay home are for the better of their children.
The Choice to Work
Whether to work or not to work as a mother is obviously something that every mother has to consider. Mothers have to consider various the benefits and the disadvantages that working may have on their children. In a study carried out in the United States among female former college students to find out if particular characteristics influence career women to be more probable to stay at home after marriage and becoming mothers. It was revealed that, homemakers felt that the most important thing for them was being a mother and nothing else. On the other hand, working mothers believed that working was their main goal in life, hence other things such as a family are just a supplementary to their lives (De Henau, Danièle and Síle 137). However, as established by DeJong, both working and stay home mothers felt that the family was the most important role in their lives. However, although all mothers supported a family as their main purpose in life, no one including working mothers reported putting the family ahead of work (80).
Children`s Perception of Working Mothers
There is a difference in the way children of working mothers and children of non working mothers perceive their moms. Children of working mothers receive little or no discipline from their mothers than those children whose mothers stay home with them. Children of working mothers are likely to be verbally abused more often and receive little support from their mothers than children that have their mothers stay home with them (DeJong 76).
Effect on Children Upbringing
The employment status of a mother definitely affects child rearing and affect the development of the child or children, both physically, socially and psychologically. Studies suggest that, child rearing-dimensions, including maturity demands, encouragement of independence, and autonomy granting is specifically important (Janis & Jacquelynne 936-38). This is a dimension that can encompass in its severity overprotection on one end and neglect on the other. Some studies have produced proof that employed mothers promote independence in their children as compared to unemployed mothers. This encouragement of independence is in line with the situational demands of the double role since it allows the family to function more efficiently in the absence of the mother. However, (Bianchi 410-11) warns that encouraging independence and autonomy may have a negative impact on male children since it promotes the influence of peer pressure. On the other hand, the encouragement of autonomy and independence in girls is likely to result into positive outcome as girls have traditionally received too little if any encouragement for independence (Janis & Jacquelynne 939). A study carried out in Michigan further revealed that, in all social classes, working mothers in contrast to stay home mothers showed little distinction between daughters and sons in the manner of disciplining them and in their children`s goals. Furthermore, working mothers are likely to cite independence as a goal for their daughters, where feminine and obedience are not part of their daughters` goal.
In the study by DeJong, most mothers expressed their concern on the support given to their children in day care facilities, they also agreed that their children`s discipline was being negatively affected as most of disciplining is the responsibility of care takers as mothers are busy working (80).
Cognitive and Behavioral Effects on Children of Working Mothers
Children of working mothers of pre-school going age are likely to be taken to childcare services where they get little or no individual attention and instruction. This lack personal attention and instruction is likely may have significant cognitive effects on the child in later years. In addition, it may influence behavior. Studies show that, there exist some noteworthy differences in cognitive abilities between kids who have their mothers stay home and those with working mothers. In one study cited by DeJong, explored the effects of maternal employment during the early years of a child`s life on the cognitive and behavioral outcomes during elementary years. When a mother is working in the first year of the child`s life, the cognitive outcome of the child is adversely affected in later years (DeJong 76). Consequently working mothers have a negative influence on their children. In the same study by DeJong, none of the non-working mothers complained of any behavior issues in their kids, a quite different view expressed by working mothers, where 40 percent reported behavior problems in their children. This can be attributed to children not receiving discipline from their mothers and having several people to rely on in regard to how to behave (81).
The Effects of Working Mothers on Family Wellbeing
Luckily, working mothers may have a positive influence on their children. Families with where both the mother and the father are working are able to offer their children more as with increased financial capabilities come good nutrition, improved healthcare and education opportunities. Mothers who are working also feel better when they know that they are contributing to their family`s needs by providing financially (Greenberg and Barrett 67-78). In addition, when a mother is working, she really values the little time they spend with their children and make use of it to the maximum. The sense of security that working mothers and their families have on financial stability of the family is healthy for entire family relations. Children are assured of their basic needs and spouses are able to expand their scope as they feel that the family is secured even if things go wrong (Greenberg and Barrett 67-78). Some scholars argue that working mothers contribute to lose family ties that may lead to family breakup. Whereas this may be true in certain instances as seen later in this paper, families with a working mother are generally healthy and happy.
Mother`s Sense of Wellness
This is another area of family life that can explain the effects of a working mother on the child. Studies show that employed mothers have a high level of morale, satisfaction, and minimal level of stress indicators and measures of depressive mood. The increased morale is particularly in the poor class as opposed to middle class. Poor working mothers associate their job with various benefits such as increased social support provided by colleagues, the enhanced sense of control over their lives that they experience, and the labeled advantages that their wages bring to the family (Bianchi 407). Therefore working mothers determine the well being of the mother`s health and consequently her children. The wellbeing of a mother influences effective parenting behavior of the mother as well as cognitive and emotional adjustment of children. In addition, working mothers are healthier than non working mothers again in the lower class society. Mothers who were employed in a study done in Michigan scored lower in the depression mood test and scored higher on the positive morale measure. Employed mothers are also less likely to be authoritarian or permissive to their children. There is also a likelihood of positive interaction between a working mother and her children which is also healthy for a child`s development.
As a working mother, I concur with the idea that working brings a sense of wellness to the mother and to the entire family (Write your story here):
Working Mothers Relationship with Spouse
When a mother is working, there is obviously a decrease in the amount and quality of time she spends with her spouse. This can happen in either ways if the husband is working or when the husband is not working. In a study by Anne-Rigt which investigated the role of financial and time pressures related to work and divorce, it was found that working mothers are at a high rate of divorce than stay home mothers (169). Due to the increasing participation of women in the workforce, time spent by couples has become extremely scarce. When a wife is working, there is a likelihood of destabilizing a relationship as a result of reduced time spent together. This is also because, when mothers work, they are also involved in doing household chores. Therefore, even if the mother is working more hours that the husband, she is expected to come home and take care of the housework, and may not have time to spend with the husband after work. Nevertheless, most couples have opted to balancing their working plans so as to spend time together. In the light of the significance of marital interaction time for stability of a marriage, wife`s employment may heighten the likelihood of divorce (189).
In some countries such as Denmark, there is strong emphasis on the family. Husbands are aware that that they are responsible for providing for the family and they have high regard for the family (Anne-Rigt 171). As such working mothers in the country opt for more flexible work schedules such as adjusting their working hours to the responsibilities of their families rather than increasing their working hours like in most western countries such as the United States. Further unemployment of the husband of a working mother is a recipe for a doomed relationship. When a man is unemployed, he does not take up the traditional responsibility of a breadwinner which in turn affects the couples physically and psychologically. The working mother may leave the house responsibilities of taking care of children to the husband which may create some tension or conflict within the marriage. In addition, financial distress in a marriage can heighten chances of divorce. When a man is not working, or the working mother earns more than the husband, there is a likelihood of conflict that may result to instability in the marriage (Anne-Rigt 184). In short, for a wife, the greater the work efforts such as increased working hours the greater the risk of divorce and vice versa.
The Role of the Father
When a mother goes to work, the role of a father is likely to change, whether he is employed or not. The role of the father remains an important mediator of the connection between the employment status of the mother and child`s development. Role sharing is likely to be influenced by the working mother`s status and not just as a choice. Despite gender role attitude, fathers increasingly engage in household chores and child care when their wives start working. The greater association of fathers with their children is limited to the functional interactions. Fathers whose wives are working are minimally involved in fun or leisure interaction. In addition, there is a fascinating gender effect on fathers` interaction with their children. In the case where the mother is the only one employed, fathers tend to interact more with their sons than daughters, and in the case where both parents are working, fathers interact with daughters and sons equally (Bianchi 406).
The role of the father in the family influences the academic performance of the daughter. Even when working mothers influences their daughter`s perception that women are also competent in roles that are traditionally associated with men, high father participation enhances this view. The view that mothers or women are capable influences girls` efficacy as well as improved test scores (Bianchi 406). The higher participation of the father is also directly linked to test scores of both boys and girls. However, the amount of time spent in leisure activities by the father and their children has no significant influence on the test scores of both genders. Involvement of mothers in work activities, increases the father`s role in household and childcare roles. Their higher participation in their children`s lives increases their academic performance. Mothers` employment brings a sense of efficacy in their daughters and they are bound to perform better in life.
Generally, working mothers have been perceived as unable to completely deliver in their work by their colleagues. This can be very challenging for a woman, and can hinder a woman`s career development if her managers or superiors bear this perception. However, working mothers are dedicated and motivated in their work and they perform as efficiently as other employees. Most companies that support working mothers have reported success in their operations due to the commitment of the mothers (OECD 17).
From the above analysis, it is clear that working moms have faced several challenges in their quest to follow their career path, provide and support their families. In an interview with Angel, one of the working mothers with a customer service firm, it was evident that things are not what they seem. Most working mothers are happy with their families and are doing great at work. Here`s what angels got to say when I asked her about her experience as a working mom:
“I got pregnant at 18 when I was still in college, my boyfriend and I moved in immediately and started a family, I was devastated to stay at home after the birth of our son. Nevertheless I managed to complete my studies and luckily got a job with a customer service company. Though I felt disconnected with my son for long times, I saw his life and the life of our family improve significantly, we moved to a bigger apartment as we could afford, and we were able to participate in leisure activities and traveling for holidays more often than we could before. I was motivated to work even harder to support our family and my husband was happy to assist with household chores when I worked overtime or extended my office work to the house. The little time I spare is usually about 90 minutes that I take to play and interact with my son. Last year I was promoted to the human resource manager of the company and actually my life got better. I have my family support and am currently pregnant with our second born and I feel like I might just get another promotion… “
The Changing Attitudes about Women`s and Men`s Work
Over the past three decades, the perception of women`s work and men`s work has declined significantly. Today women can do any kind of a job that was previously considered a man`s job. In addition, men have changed attitude towards women working in these jobs. As such working mothers are finding it flexible to work and participate in taking care of their families. In a survey to determine these attitudes, the views of men and women regarding appropriate work and family roles was seen to have reached a common point (Galinsky, Aumann & Bond 8). In addition, the general perception that working women are not good mothers has been demystified. In the report by Family and Work Institute, in 2008, the percentage of employees who consented to the idea that a working mother`s relations with her children just as for the stay at home mothers significantly increased in the last three decades (Galinsky, Aumann & Bond 12).
Working Mothers in Sweden
Sweden is ranked at the top of the world`s most gender egalitarian countries, founded on the strong believe that men and women should share power and influence indiscriminately. There are strong gender equality policies in this country which are meant to ensure that women and men enjoy same opportunities, obligations and rights in all aspects of life (Sweden, N.P). Unlike in the United States and other countries, women in the Scandinavian have the advantage of being protected from gender discrimination. As such, everyone including women have a right to work and support themselves, balance between family and career life and live devoid fear of discrimination or violence (OECD 8). As such, mothers in countries like Sweden enjoy working as their male counterparts, without being perceived differently, discriminated for being poor mothers to their children or not being a good wife or not being able to accomplish their work like other women who are not mothers and all the negativity that had been experienced elsewhere. Due to the strong policies supporting and empowering both genders equally, mothers and fathers enjoy parental leave that is paid allowing both parents to be able to take care of their children while growing their career (Sweden N.P).
The historical gender stereotype of women as home makers and not professionals have greatly affected women and mothers who want to work. However, over the past decade, women and working mothers in particular have defied this barbaric view and have engaged in the workforce to support themselves, their families, while at the same time developing their career. The success of working mothers is undeniable. In these difficult and unpredictable times in the global economy, security is not guaranteed. Mothers working are contributing greatly to the development of a healthy and a stable family as evidenced in this research paper. From the testimonies of working mothers who have defied all odds and have made it successfully, shows how working mothers are important not only to themselves, but to the society.
The United States and other countries should learn from the example of the Scandinavian world especially Sweden. Allowing a population to have equal opportunities in all the aspects of life, including education, career and family is an important ingredient to the success of the country. Sweden is among the most affluent countries, and even pays for parent leave for both parents in a manner that shows support for the family and more importantly boost the populations` morale towards working. This way, working mothers will feel motivated towards career development and will be able to raise healthy families which is all for the wellbeing of the society and the nation at large.
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