I recently lost my mind completely and went on the twitters. Due to my folly, I caught a link from @DoubleXSci to this article at the LA Times about the science of being a working mother: The MD: What Science Says About Working Moms, and What the Heart Says. I have read a skajillion of these kinds of articles in my lifetime. This one tells us no worries! Go on and be a working mom!
Searching for more definitive answers, researchers at UC Irvine combined the results of 69 different studies on the topic. Their findings, published by the American Psychological Assn. in 2010, were reassuring. With few exceptions, children whose mothers returned to work when they were young fared just as well as those with stay-at-home moms.
"The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full-time employment early on," says Wendy Goldberg, a professor in the department of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. "We have to look at other factors that affect child achievement and behavior. Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."
I firmly believe that if decent childcare is readily available, no one's going to be seriously damaged if mommy goes back to work whenever she wants. Daddy goes back to work on day 1 and somehow kids survive. We rarely think about the consequences of that separation at birth, do we?
But two lines in the above quote get me. "The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full time employment early on" and "Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means." I would think not. I would guess that whether or not you call your work a "career" and whether or not your work pays enough to keep you and your kid(s) from starving are two big, related factors, that might also tie into that intensive, full-time employment early on biz. You might call what I am picking at here "class issues".
Here are some stereotypes we know and love:
1. Welfare queens who just keep having babies so they can get a bigger check and stay home and not have to work.
2. Hardworking middle class people who do their part and don't want to see their taxes go to support someone else.
3. Women in science who have babies don't work as hard and want special treatment and extra credit for lesser quality work.
Take note that in theory, women are also included in "hardworking middle class people" but in practice deployment of the statement invokes an ideal of a nuclear family with hardworking man supporting wife and kids at home. So, we can now start putting together rules for being a woman with kids:
If you are poor, you should not have kids, because then you will need the government to support you, and that is unfair to hardworking middle class people who do their part. If you are poor and work, you can have kids, but don't expect childcare because again, that would be unfair to the hardworking middle class. If you are poor and work and your kids are endangered because your part-time WalMart wages won't pay for adequate childcare, they will be taken from you because you are a bad mother. Also, try not to get sick, because health insurance? Ha!
If you are middle class, congratulations! You have a hardworking husband who will take care of you and the kids, and of course you will probably want to homeschool the kids. If your husband's salary is inadequate to support this lifestyle, he is not hardworking enough. You may have to get a job to help out, but don't expect childcare. That would be unfair to other hardworking middle class people. Keep your fingers crossed that hubby does not die or divorce you. You may have insurance, but it may be mostly useless so again, try not to get sick.
If you are one of those career women, you should not be having children at all, just to pay someone else to raise them. If you really want to have children, then you can't devote yourself to your career anyway. So why hurt both your children and yourself? Besides, if you have children, no one will take your work seriously. Even if you get married and don't have children, people will be wondering if you might not just pop out a kid at any moment, confirming their suspicions that you are not serious. Probably best to stay single. Then they will just gossip about how you are an ice queen and frigid and a bull dyke and lesbian and ball-breaker and not a normal woman and need a good fucking and who would want to fuck you anyway. It's not too late to think about becoming a nurse, or teacher, or even an executive assistant. Then you can look for a nice man, settle down into a middle class lifestyle, and have some kids. Try not to be poor, and try not to get sick.
If you are one of those career women who runs a company, you can do pretty much whatever you want because you will have lots of money and you own a company. Not that it will be easy or that you will be universally loved or respected for it. Just sayin', money=choice.
If you are one of those career women who wants to go into politics, you had better have children, and be prepared at all times to talk about (1) how important being a good mother is to you and how you have always arranged your schedule to be there for your children when they need you and (2) how having children will in no way ever impact on your ability to function as [fill in public office here] in even the slightest manner.
I think that mostly covers it. Good luck! Anyone with additional advice on how to be a woman with children, please leave a note in the comments!