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Should a New Mom take a Break from her Career for her Baby?
Like any life-altering experience, the birth of a baby ushers in a host of changes which are sure to redo the equation between a new mom’s personal and professional lives. She is most likely to find herself overwhelmed with questions like “What's best for the baby? What's best for me? Can I afford to stay home? Will my career take a nosedive if I do? Who will care for my baby if I don't?” Figuring out if she should take a break from her career can be a new mom's toughest decision and here are some aspects to the question to make things easier to understand.
She needs to heal first
The most practical reason for taking a baby break is to help a new mom get herself back on her feet. Childbirth is a major physiological process and C-section is considered to be one of the most invasive kinds of surgeries. Thus any kind of childbirth – whether vaginal or C-section is bound to leave an impact on the body which could range from like pain, vaginal bleeding, soreness at the site of stitches, bruised nipples to back ache and feeling tired. While the last two may be seen as seen as minor problems, for new moms who have already gone through the physical trauma of childbirth, they are not minor at all. For all these physiological reasons, if nothing else, taking a break from a job is highly advisable for new moms. In fact the physical recovery is, of course, just one side of the story. Women also need to make the psychological transition to being a mother - which is even tougher for those who were working before giving birth. When a new mom is already struggling with sleep deprivation, demand feeding schedules and hormonal disturbances, the added pressures of a job can push her already stressed mind to the brink. Conventionally new mothers may be told that they will be back to 'normal' within six weeks of giving birth, but a new study1 has found that most women take much longer to recover. Dr Julie Wray, of Salford University, interviewed women two to three weeks, three months and six to seven months after they had given birth and concluded that it actually takes a year to recover from childbirth.
Bonding with the infant
Many of the problems of infant care can seem tolerable once a new mom is able to develop a bond with her baby. The rigors of cleaning, nursing and feeding are enough to put any sane woman off motherhood but once she is able to establish a deep connection with her infant –which is one of the purposes of breastfeeding - the irritating chores seem more manageable. However for this bond to take place, the new mom needs to be physically present with the infant, something which is difficult to do if she rejoins her job soon after childbirth.
Another pertinent argument in favor of taking a break is that a stay at home mom is the best possible person to care for her infant. No one – not any nanny or a grandparent - can do a better job than the mom herself. Indeed some would go even so far as to suggest that given a choice between a dad and mom as the primary caregiver, it is the latter who is sure to do a better job. It goes without saying that in everything a mom does, she will have the best interest of her baby in mind – unlike a professional nanny who will be bound by number of hours of duty and other such limitations. Similarly a grandparent or another close relative bringing up her baby becomes something of an obligation - a favor that they are doing to a new mom which is why she cannot openly object to any of their infant care technique or principle. A stay at home mom can be involved in hands-on parenting which gives her baby the best role model and best opportunities to grow into a healthy being. She can give your baby or toddler the most intellectually stimulating experiences and personally observe the various development stages. This not only keeps her abreast of the growth of her baby but she will also be the first one to notice any development delays and thus take appropriate steps if required.
And yet not matter how advantageous taking a break after childbirth, many women simply cannot afford the reduction in pay. Staying at home involves raising a family on one income instead of two. This not only means that funds are limited and have to be stretched for buying the necessities, but that a new mom would have to think twice before splurging on herself or allowing your family to have certain luxuries. She would have to make the single income go as far as possible which could translate into fewer trips to restaurants, cineplexes or shorter vacations. On the other hand moms who get back to their jobs have larger funds at their disposal which not only allows them to hire professionals for housekeeping and childcare but later on, their children can participate in a wider number of co-curricular activities like music, sports and camps, without family finances feeling the pinch.
Loss of professional edge
Even when family finances are not a concern, loss of professional edge remains the single most important drawback of taking a break for a new mom. In economies where jobs are scarce and opportunities for professional advancement rarer, a female employee on maternity leave may find her promotion prospects ruined once she is out of circulation for long. Even if the organization does not willingly sideline the female employee, she may find a temporary but definite downslide in her own professional expertise.
Ultimately though whether a new mom should take a break from her career would depend on her and her family’s circumstances. If her partner can cater to the family’s financial needs and she has enough educational background as well as family support to brush up her professional skills later on, there is no reason why she should not take a break to enjoy the pleasures of a baby. On the other hand if a woman simply cannot afford any reduction in income and her company does not offer paid maternity leave, she may have little choice but to get back to work. Even then a new mom can explore options like working part time, working full or part time from home, or job sharing which will reduce some of the stress of juggling infant care and a job. She can rope in family members to care for her baby while she is out working which is how many working moms manage in countries where paid maternity leave is still not widespread in the private and non-organized sectors. Finally it may simply make sense to cut down on expenses – doing away with non-essentials may enable a new mom to take a break from her job on the strength of her past savings. That way she remains free to enjoy her baby for the time being as well as save on costs of going to the workplace like gas, clothing, lunches and professional childcare. Thus each option has its own pros and cons and what will suit a new mom best, would largely depend on the kind of financial and family support she has.