When a woman leaves her career to care for her newborn, most people do not question it. Research shows great benefits for a child’s development when the mother stays home during the first year of the child’s life.
However, if a woman leaves at the height of her career specifically for her school-aged children, she might get some perplexed looks. While the benefits of staying at home once the children have entered school are less known, some women are choosing to do just that.
And a 2013 Norwegian study shows that having the mother home with older children can improve the quality of life within the home and is overall very positive for kids. More moms are seeing the importance of being home for their older children, stepping aside from careers to support their kids.
Wendy Robinson of Princeton, N.J., is a mother of four with children between the ages of 5 and 15. After an eight-week maternity leave from her job as a publicist in New York City, she went back to work specifically so she could have the time off to be with her children now.
“I wanted to be there for them after school. That time is so important. As babies they went to daycare. They didn't need much, just a bottle and regular naps. My kids need so much more from me now."
Similarly, Brigit Thomas of Indianapolis, Ind., and mother of two boys, age 8 and 10, left her job as a software developer to stay at home with her children.
“I had plans to go back to work once my children entered school, and I did for about 18 months. But it only took one very busy summer of activities [with my kids] to realize the best thing for everyone was for me to be home with them.”
Women who take the opportunity to be home for their older children are able to do a number of things such as chaperone field trips tips, help with homework, and more closely supervise after-school activities. “Being home for my kids when they get home from school means I know they won’t be playing video games all afternoon,” says Ms. Thomas.
According to the Norwegian study, the older children in families with a stay-at-home parent tended to do better in school. On average, the older children had increased grade-point averages in 10th grade.
Ms. Robinson and Ms. Thomas sacrificed high-paying jobs to take care of their children. However, financially, for some women, it isn’t possible to completely stop working and stay home.
Part-time jobs that align with the school day are the answer for many moms, as are options that allow moms to work from home. Websites such as elance.com and flexjobs.com help moms earn an income while still taking care of children.
According to WorkingMother.com, continuing to work, even part-time, or volunteering outside the home may help a parent a transition back to work once children have grown.
The website also encourages readers to take on jobs such as helping out the PTA, chaperoning field trips and volunteering in the classroom. The site emphasizes that all activities utilize skills and gain experience that can relate to the workplace.
Even negotiating part-time work from home may not be as hard as some think. Sometimes all it takes is asking. The site also provides tips on how to talk to an employer and work on a flexible schedule.
Some bosses fear that telecommuting employees will not be available when they are needed. Proving that you are accessible and keeping your calendar available for all to see, removes that doubt.
Likewise, the website SheKnows.com suggests focusing your ability to be productive, and proving it, goes a long way to employers considering allowing a more flexible schedule.
Whether a parent finds a solution for part-time work, or decides to put a chosen career on hold to care for older kids, the positive benefits for kids are coming into focus, and for some parents, they are immeasurable. “I truly value this time and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Ms. Robinson says.”