Dear Working Mother: Stop and Think

by Kristin

Last night I overheard a conversation between a midwife and a midwifery student.  The student, a middle-aged lady expecting her third child, expressed concern over how a career in midwifery would affect her parenting. “I don’t want to be an absent mom,” she said.  The midwife was quick to reassure the lady that midwifery would not compromise her as a mother. In fact, the midwife claimed, midwifery was a better profession for a mother than a 9-to-5 office job in terms of allowing her more time with her children.

I couldn’t help but disagree. In the midwifery clinic I am familiar with, the midwives alternate between 1-2 weeks of in-clinic visits during set hours and 1-2 weeks of being on-call at home.  When a midwife is on-call, attending a birth comes first before any family activity.  Regardless of whether you are celebrating Christmas, or your child’s birthday, attending his/her graduation, or just on an excursion to the neighbourhood playground, you have to respond to a call to attend a birth. As anybody can imagine, mother walking out the door in the middle of a birthday party or any such event would be a terrible disappointment for a child at best.  In addition, other midwives I knew had admitted to me that they did not have a close relationship with their children, or that their children had expressed upset over their mother’s absence.

I summoned up enough nerve to confront the midwife after the lady had left, pointing out to her that she did not present a full picture of the challenges the profession holds for a woman with children.  Not surprisingly, the midwife was quick to defend her position and dismissed the stories I related of the other midwives, saying that that was the experience of only a few.

However, what she did admit was this: “The one thing you will have to learn to accept [as a midwife] is that your children will love other people as much as they love you.”

If you ask me, the ramifications go far beyond that.  What is your absence teaching your children about the importance of relational commitment? Of family life? Of being there for each other? If mother, by her actions, makes her job a greater priority than her children, what message is that sending to them?

How is it affecting the children emotionally? This is especially a concern if there is a turnover of caregivers, such as is the case in daycare. How can a child learn how to form emotional bonds if he is systematically abandoned by his caregivers? How will the insecurity affect his development?

What if the real problem is that the child will learn not to love?  Or that the only love he learns is self-love?

To the working mothers (those who are working out of choice as opposed to necessity) I say: Stop and Think.  Ask yourself the tough questions…before it’s too late.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.