According to new research, mothers who take longer maternity leaves are able to manage work related and family stress when they return to the workforce better than those who return to work immediately after giving birth. Additionally, the longer a mother spends with her newborn before returning to work, the more confident she is in her decision. Bettina S. Wiese of the Department of Psychology at RWTH Aachen University in Germany recently led a study that explored how stress and the length of maternity leave affected a woman’s confidence in her decision to return to work. “Because, at present, most women return to paid work after becoming a mother, this transition must be considered as a rather normative developmental task,” said Wiese. “The return-to-work transition, however, is not completed on the day of reentry but rather comprises the time until the women feel like and are seen as fully (re)integrated organization members. The present study concerns this later phase, when women must actually deal with the first weeks of dual affordances at the workplace and at home.”
For their study, Wiese and her colleagues enlisted 149 new mothers immediately after they re-entered the workforce. Using a daily diary over a five week period, the mothers reported how they felt about their decision to return to work. The team theorized that stress and regrets would be directly related to the length of maternity leave. “In addition to personal resources (i.e., emotional stability, feeling prepared for the transition) and financial requirements needed to return to work, daily experienced family stress predicted decisional regrets,” said Wiese. “Moreover, our results suggest that leave length is related to psychological resilience in the face of day-to-day stress experiences: Late returners reported fewer regrets in general and were unaffected by daily family stress. Return-to-work regrets, in turn, were predictive of withdrawal intentions.” Wiese added, “This underlines the relevancy of the timing of the transition back to work in terms of successful development during this life phase.”
Wiese, B. S., & Ritter, J. O. (2011, November 21). Timing Matters: Length of Leave and Working Mothers’ Daily Reentry Regrets. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026211
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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