Life & Style | Parenting

Debate: Are you a better mother if you stay at home?

Do children with working mums do better at school? Are little ones with stay-at-home mums happier? We ask if mothers can ‘have it all?’

  • Aquarius magazine
  • Published: 14:57 May 6, 2012
  • Aquarius

  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Speak your mind: Is the feminist belief that working women can have it all nothing but a false hope>

YES

Louisa Wilkins, age 33

As a working mother, this is a tough topic to think about. Would I be a better mother if I stayed at home? I’m not sure. But, if I’m honest, my children would probably be happier. Every day when they get home from school they call me and invariably my three-year-old tells me to leave work right that second and go home. He misses me.

As the daughter of a stay-at-home mother, I have happy memories of Mum taking us swimming, going on bike rides, doing fun activities... Even when we were out playing, Mum was always there. If we fell over, she was there. If we were bored, she was there. Would our childhood have been as idyllic if she was in the office? I doubt it.

Studies suggest that having a mother at home puts children at less risk of obesity; boosts their development and test scores; reduces their risk of hospital stays, poisoning, bone breaks and illness; improves their behavioural skills; lessens their chances of mental stress later in life; and boosts their chances of being employed. Wow – if there was a vitamin supplement that promised the same results, we wouldn’t think twice about dosing our kids up, whatever the cost. And if you met a parent who didn’t, wouldn’t you feel like they were neglectful – like when you see kids unbuckled in the back of the car? I certainly would.

The point is not whether mothers should work or not. Some mums have to work, while other mothers choose to work to fulfil a need of their own – both reasons are understandable. The point is whether staying home is better for your children. Carmen Benton, parenting educator at LifeWorks (lifeworksdubai.com), says, “Before the age of three, the brain is developing quickly and a lot of this development has to do with connection and attachment and their long-term ability to have a higher sense of self. Is this a responsibility you are willing to outsource?”
It comes down to a simple equation: (parent time) multiplied by (positive interaction) equals (child’s happiness). According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in the UK, working mothers spend 81 minutes per day engaged in quality parenting activities (including meal times) whereas stay-at-homers manage a whopping 155 – which by my calculation equals double the happiness.
I agree that working mums can still have quality time with their children (because I do), can still be a good mother (because I am) and can still bring up healthy, well-rounded children (because mine are), but this is one argument where quality and quantity are equally weighted. I know my children well enough to know that there’s only one thing that they really want and that’s time with their parents. They want it more than chocolate, and more than Ben 10 repeats, because time with their parents makes them feel loved. And that’s one thing a child can’t have too much of.

NO

Kate Birch, age 39

Related Links

As someone who’s had her foot in both camps, I see the benefits of each, but I’m a better woman, and therefore, a better mother, for working. In fact, I find the time I do get with my kids is more productive when I work – perhaps compensating for my absences with lots of direct interaction. “Studies indicate that it is the quality of time spent with children that makes a positive difference, not necessarily quantity of time,” agrees Dr Deema Sihweil, clinical director at the Human Relations Institute in Dubai. “When working mums have little time they often devote a lot of time to engaging in activities that foster growth.”

I believe that working mums are happier, more fulfilled, and project a positive, healthy role model to their children. It’s all very well saying, ‘Well, she’s a mother now, and that’s the most important job a woman can have,’ but that’s poppycock (and went out of fashion about the same time that word did). Yes, being a mother IS an important job, but it doesn’t mean it has to be a woman’s only job. We can multi-task, remember?

But Dr Deema has a note of caution for women who do not strike the right work/life balance. “A very challenging career can disrupt critical routines that are established at a very early age, affecting attachment milestones in early infancy, making it difficult for kids to separate from the parents when they go to school.”

I think ‘can’ is the key word. My youngest son has ‘suffered’ two hard-working parents, lived in three countries and attended four nurseries before the age of five. He is the most grounded and secure six-year-old (if not person) I know – loved and cared for, while mum has mostly been working.

And that separation can actually be a good thing. A study by University College London last year suggested young girls fare better if their mothers go out to work, while another by the University of Oxford found that nursery school can be beneficial and young kids go on to develop strong social bonds at school.

“Most recent research on the effects of nursery school on children below two suggests that there are no detrimental effects on the social and academic development of children, given that certain conditions are met,” says Dr Deema, who cites safety, trust, love and consistency as essential.

All of this my kids get from a variety of people, not just me. I’m not saying it’s easy. There’s stress (but stay-at-home mums get frazzled, too) and there’s guilt. And certainly, living in Dubai, where you have a lot of stay-at-home mums, it can be tough when you are the only face missing from the school run.

“It is a challenging dilemma for many mothers who need to work, as they feel guilt. Unfortunately, staying at home is not a possibility for households that require both parents’ incomes.”

For me, working wasn’t a financial choice, it was a personal one. I need work as part of a balanced life. I believe that doing so has been better for everyone. And I have rounded, well-adjusted kids to prove it.

What you say

“I am against women working when kids are under three. As a stay-at-home mum, I can give my kids all my time and affection they need.”
– Aquarius fan Farah Merhab

“A child needs its mum anda mum needs her own life! So, a part-time job is ideal.”
– Aquarius fan Jo

“I gave up work to become a full-time mum as I felt I couldn’t give my child enough time.”
– Aquarius fan Subhomita Dhar

“I think stay-at-home mums are best, but some mums have no choice but to work, like myself.”
– Aquarius fan Lowee Gando

“There’s no debate – if I were a kid, I’d want my mum to be there for me, not a nanny.”
 – Aquarius fan Khrisanta Pagalunan
 

 

Comments (4)

Share your views
  1. Added 12:25 May 7, 2012

    We should balance both children and job, but on priority whatever time we have we should spend as much of it with our children.

    Pretty, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 11:23 May 7, 2012

    It is always good to be at home with kids, but not everyone can afford it. My son and daughter both love it when I am at home. But they both have got used to me seeing going to office. When I am back from office my daughter of 18 months just clings to me for some time and cries if I am away for a few minutes. But I am also blessed to have my mother-in-law and a maid staying with me. They are a big help. I dont agree with the fact that kids are obese if mum is not at home. It all depends on quality time and our willingness to provide them good food.

    Reny Varughese, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 11:21 May 7, 2012

    I think a less hour job is fine. It's a personal choice though. Working mothers have to manage between home & work & all. They are like superwoman. Sometimes we also observe if a mom give up her career to raise a child, later on when the child all grown up, they don't even bother to remember how their mother sacrificed her career to raise them. Actually it totally depends upon the family's need & entirely a mom's choice to work or not.

    Farzana, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 11:08 May 7, 2012

    I think from a child's perspective a mum at home is ideal in all ways. However, from a woman's perspective being a full time mom may not be the ideal choice considering financial incentives, sense of independence and providing for herself & her kids in the unlikely event of loss of her partner for any reason. I would say any mom should be a provider for her child so be it a full time or a part time job..be independent..

    Shania, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The monthly wellbeing and family magazine

Aquarius
Life & Style editor's choice
FROM THE NETWORK

More from friday

More from alpha

More from Wheels

More from aquarius

More from insideout

Quick Links

  1. Business

  2. Sport

  3. The latest Entertainment news

  4. The latest Lifestyle stories

  5. Blogs

  6. Opinion

In Life

  1. Food

  2. Shopping

  3. Motoring

  4. Travel

  5. Gadgets

  6. Beauty & Fashion

  7. Interiors

  8. People

  9. Health

  10. Education

Latest in Life

  1. Uma Ghosh: Good night’s sleep is key to success

  2. An over-the-top wedding in Dubai?

  3. Bariatric surgery eases Type 2 diabetes symptoms

  4. What makes us smile

  5. She’s a French food superstar, now in Dubai

  6. Sizzling steaks that won’t burn your budget