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To Work or Not to Work: What Will You Do After Baby Comes?

Parenthood brings endless choices. How to navigate your career may be one of toughest.
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The New-Mom Dilemma continued...

Stuart advises moms-to-be to not make any major decisions while they are expecting. She also says it's important to remember there is no right answer. "The decision depends very much on the psychology of the woman making it," she says, "and on what types of support networks she has."

Young children do need steady contact with predictable caregivers. "I think they need as much contact as possible with their own parents," Stuart says. "But a very good day care can be a good complement to what a mother or pair of parents can do on their own. So it's not the case that mothers of young children must not work. But they do have to keep in mind the child's actual needs."

She says the decision about going back to work after having a baby depends on several factors, including the availability and quality of external support, financial constraints, and emotional readiness to either stay at home or work outside the house.

"It doesn't do children much good if you stay home and are angry and feel guiltily," she says. "It also doesn't do much good if you go to work thinking you are supposed to be home full time."

It's OK to stay at home, Stuart says, even if it is at odds with your professional training. It's also OK even though you feel an obligation to the women of your generation and the next. And, "If you go to work and are unhappy there," she says, "that's not great for kids either."

Maternal Conflict

"Women focus on 'Should I work or shouldn't I work,'" Stuart says. "At the same time, they are less aware of their own anxieties about becoming mothers in first the place." She says the conflict over going to work has a lot to do with a fundamental anxiety: "Will I be a good mother?"

A lot of this anxiety may stem from a new mom's relationship with her own mother. "If your relationship with your own mother is troubled," Stuart says, "you will feel quite anxious as a mother. And you will focus that anxiety on the question of working or staying at home."

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