In most societies today women compromise the large percentage of students at higher and further education establishments, with a great proportion eventually venturing into paid work.

Much of this drive to work and establish a career is down to many reasons, one of which includes having aspirations and being goal orientated, a longing to utilise the skills and experienced harnessed via exposure to the world and to incorporate the knowledge gained in their lives as well as in larger society to better communities.

Paid work and career differ from one another although the latter always comprises of the first, the first does not always necessarily include the latter. A career by definition conjures up an image of immense toiling, networking and investment of time (working overtime/unsocial hours), money (to maintain a particular appearance) and attention (the next event where you can flaunt your work credentials) in return for a healthy return in money and/or lifestyle.

Paid work in comparison may not involve frills of luxury but may simply compromise of the humble effort in providing a warm home, food on the table and clothes on their back. Women working full stop in certain cultures and/or families is frowned upon as it is indicative of their inability to provide for their womenfolk or the anxiety associated with their women being exposed to unsavoury people (I will write a detailed post on this soon)

But as a woman, how does the relationship between having a family and having a career work? Is there a balance? There was a recent article which made a correlation between unhealthy eating habits of children and working mothers, whereby children whose mothers work have generally worse eating habits compared to the diet and eating habits of children with stay-at-home mums. This shows similarity to research carried out in the 60s/70s by Bowlby who subliminally attributed lack of attachment to the mother and therefore affecting the child’s development and sense of safety, security, being able to engage in loving relationships down to mothers who went back to work shortly after the birth of their child. Despite superceding empirical studies emphasising the existence of a primary caregiver being important independent of gender, much is still made of Bowlby’s theory of attachment in inducing guilt and pointing the dreaded finger of blame.

Admittedly working or not working for women with young children/families should not involve the emotional upheaval it currently carries, much of this however is easier said than done. Not working for some women would mean giving up and saving up, especially if two wages coming into a family home were whittled down to one, with there being no significant increase to remotely buffer against such a change in living for even an iota of a moment with the one incoming pay packet.  This is currently the case at least for those living in London if one wishes to have a decent quality of life and live above the poverty line – a single income is insufficient unless you have your housing already paid for by the council and are in receipt of benefits or are ludicrously wealthy.

Alternatively narrative relating to mothers returning to work often focuses on the return being the 2nd option, with many automatically, intrinsically and of course naturally opting to stay at home with the child. This may not always be the case, so rather than looking at these women who want to return to work rather than stay at home (even if there are no pressing reasons for doing so) as the exception, we may need to re-adjust our lens and accept they are becoming the norm.

For mothers with young children who work, their support networks compromise of other mothers, creche facilities/childcare and most important of all their partners. Adjustments in family living are considered the norm with the addition of a new member but other facets of both family and personal lives often go untouched in fear of upsetting the mother/baby bonds “natural” equilibrium, despite there being nothing natural or healthy about being holed up with a baby all day, every day without any contact with other adults nevermind seeking out some respite from child care.

Much compatibility between women, family and work can be sought only after consideration of time, effort, management, bonding the effect (positive or negative), which support networks are to hand and what there is to gain by making such moves  -and as not all children, families and women are the same, nor can the decision to completely render family life and work incompatible as a blanket rule, applicable to all across the mothering board. They don’t say work and family is a balancing act for no reason.