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Working Outside the Home: Can Mothers Make It Work?

Today, many mothers work outside the home. Read on to learn more about your options if you are struggling to decide if it is right for you.

sleeping_baby.gif Though some mothers work because of financial need, others choose to work for different reasons. Some want to stay on top of a fast-changing career, while others enjoy the intellectual stimulation, friendship, and sense of purpose and pride that their work provides. The decision to work or stay at home can be a tough one for new mothers. There are no right answers, and each woman must evaluate her specific situation before she decides what is best for her and her family.

What Could It Mean for Your Child?

Before making a decision, you need to evaluate the positive and negative effects that working outside the home can have on your child.


  • Being exposed to peers, your child will have a chance to develop social skills sooner.
  • Your child will have a chance to develop independence and responsibility at an earlier age.
  • Your child will have more opportunities to learn to trust other adults.
  • Children under the care of a consistent and nurturing caretaker may develop emotionally as well as children whose mothers stay home.
  • The mother-child bond is usually not affected.


  • Due to exposure to other children, your child may become sick more often.
  • If your child is sick, the care provider may not be able to take care of your child. You may need to find an alternate provider or program. You should also have a back-up option if the sitter is sick.
  • Unless you are certain about the quality of care, there is a risk that your child could receive poor care.

Explore More Convenient Work Options

Many women are torn between providing financial support for the family and being a nurturing and supportive full-time mom. Before you make the decision to go back to your full-time job, consider other work options you may have. Here are some things to consider:

  • Think about a home-based business.
  • Find out about freelance opportunities.
  • See if you can work from home in the job you currently do. Many companies allow for telecommuting.
  • Look into a career that will allow you to work from home.
  • Consider only working part time or job sharing.

Maternity Leave

Specifics of maternity leave will vary from woman to woman and workplace to workplace.

Getting time off can be tricky, but you can maximize your time if you are creative. Many women take advantage of benefits offered by their employers to gain time off that may include sick time, vacation days, holidays, personal days, short-term disability and unpaid family leave time. It is important to plan your maternity leave in advance so that you and your family know what to expect. Not planning ahead can result not having as much time off or unintended financial situations.

Talk to your supervisor or refer to your company's human resource department to find out what is available to you.

Getting Child Care

The most important aspect is finding a caregiver that knows how to provide optimal physical and emotional nurturing for your baby. Different types of child care options include:

In-home Care (provided by someone who comes to your home)

  • Find a family member, friend, professional day sitter, or live-in nanny.
  • Try advertising in the newspaper or contacting a nanny service.
  • Check references carefully. Be sure the applicant has the qualities that are important to you. The applicant should be responsible, warm, affectionate, compassionate, playful, and nurturing with children. Do not be afraid to ask probing questions. Some states have agencies that will do background checks on child care providers.

Care in Another Person's Home

  • For this option, you provide transportation, clothing, diapers, bottles, and toys.
  • Again, check references carefully, using the criteria listed above.

In-home Family Day Care (children in a home setting)

  • The care is less expensive.
  • Children tend not to receive as much individual attention.
  • The provider may or may not be licensed by the state.
  • Interview the care providers carefully, checking references and reputation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that family day care businesses have no more than 6 children per adult (including the caregiver's children), with no more than 2 of those children under the age of 2.

Day Care Center (20 or more children may be cared for in one facility)

  • Infants may be exposed to more infectious diseases and have more colds early in life, but during school years, this early exposure may mean less colds.
  • Day care centers must be licensed by the state.
  • Ask other parents for a referral to a reputable day care center, or check the phone book.
  • Interview providers. Spend several hours at the day care to observe and make sure it is the right place for your child.

Taking Care of Yourself

Juggling work and parenting is stressful. You may feel like you will never stay on top of all your responsibilities. One of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself so that you can take care of your family. Here are some tips:

Find a supportive employer who has family-friendly policies.

You will have a much easier time juggling your responsibilities if your employer is supportive. If they are not supportive, look for an employer with family-friendly policies who is receptive to flextime, job sharing, or working from home.

Know your rights. Many laws are in place to protect working women with issues like breastfeeding or child care.

Ask for help.

Develop and use a support system of trusted people who can help you in times of need. Your support system may include family members, friends, neighbors, or professionals that you can hire to take care of some of your responsibilities. Magazines and books that deal with the topic of working mothers are available in your public library.

Get enough rest.

Even though you are busy, do not shortchange your rest and sleep. Eliminate time-consuming activities that are not essential. Make sure you get enough sleep each night. Consider napping when your baby does.

Schedule some time for yourself every day. For example, have your spouse take care of the baby while you enjoy a warm bath, exercise or listen to music.

Forget having a spotless house.

Your house might have been tidy before the baby, but now you have more important priorities. Find ways to eliminate time spent on housework. Keep the house clean and safe, but do not fret over clutter.

Make large quantities of food and freeze meals ahead of time. If you can afford it, consider hiring a housekeeper. Ask your spouse, siblings, and parents for help. Assign chores to older children. A rotating schedule of chores might work best for your family.

Do not expect to be supermom.

Do not expect to be able to handle everything perfectly—no one can. You need help and should not feel guilty about asking for it. There will be times when your child is sick or is very unhappy about being away from you. Accept that you cannot afford to stay home, and always remember that you are doing the best you can.

If you are a single mom, team up with others.

Friends—especially other single moms—may be interested in sharing responsibilities with you, such as shopping, meals, and baby sitting. This can help you save both time and money. If you have no friends who are single moms, look for a group or organization for single parents.

There are many resources for mothers concerning work and child care. Planning can help take some stress off of your decisions. Take some time before you have your child to explore all your options and choose the best one that fits your family's needs.


US Department of Labor

Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services


Health Canada

Women's Health Matters


Babysitters and child care. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: Updated September 27, 2010. Accessed October 13, 2016.

Making child care choices count for your family. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2016.

Maternity leave. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: Updated September 2, 2016. Accessed October 13, 2016.

Understanding motherhood and mood—baby blues and beyond. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Updated May 1, 2016. Accessed October 13, 2016.

Working mothers. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2016.

Work options for mom. Moms Back to Work website. Available at: Accessed October 13, 2016.

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Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 10/28/2014