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Mother’s Day is a good time to revisit the eternal question: Are mothers, and their children, better off if they pursue a career or stay at home?

This is perhaps one of the most polarising and personal of choices – and everyone thinks their decision is best.

While some people are of the opinion that a working mother’s career has a negative impact on children who are cared for by a nanny or a member of the extended family, others think that no harm comes to children if the alternative care is good; they also feel that the children may even benefit if the mother’s career improves the family’s living standards and results in a more fulfilled mother.

Academics have assessed the total impact of a mother going back to work on a child’s mental and social development and found that the positive consequences neutralise the negatives. Studies indicate that there are several benefits to being a working mother. Work minimises social isolation and helps develop and refine skills such as problem solving, dealing with diverse sets of people and working as a team. These women are able to develop a sense of fulfilment and build their self-confidence. And in some cases, they become role models for their children because they balance a family and work. Some studies have even concluded that working mothers display greater ‘maternal sensitivity’ or responsiveness towards their children, as opposed to stay-at-home mothers.

In terms of a career and with respect to the workplace, mothers have a lot to offer, especially their finely honed parenting skills such as patience, effective communication and conflict management, which are assets in any workplace. Studies collectively show what mothers know intuitively, that if you can strike the right balance, your child and career can both flourish.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan
The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting, Training, eLearning. fauzia@iandbconsulting.com

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 13, 2012