Working Mothers Are Losing Sleep Over Career Anxiety

Half of mothers lose sleep because they stay awake at night worrying about their career, according to a new British study. This study was conducted because recruitment firm Women Like Us said it had noticed a growing trend of women registering with the company in the middle of the night. The survey of 1,500 women found that just over half were being kept awake at night by work worries, including concerns about the infamous work/life balance struggle. One in 10 said they started worrying about returning to work when they were pregnant. Apparently a whole new type of ticking clock goes off in women after they have children and it has to do with going back to work.

According to new data from the Census Bureau, more first-time mothers are working late into their pregnancy and then returning to the office soon after the baby arrives. Women are increasingly tending to work during pregnancy. Among those with a first birth between 2006 and 2008, the portion who worked during pregnancy reached 66%, compared with 44% for those with a first birth between 1961 and 1965. Among women who worked during pregnancy, about 82% of those with a first birth between 2006 and 2008 worked until one month or less before their child’s birth, compared with 73% for those with a first birth between 1991 and 1995. Those rates are up from about 35% for a first birth between 1961 and 1965. Among women who worked during pregnancy, about 59% with a first birth between 2005 and 2007 were back at work three months after the baby’s arrival, compared with 57% for a first birth between 1991 and 1994, and 17% between 1961 and 1965.

“Our nation remains mired in a conversation about whether mothers should work, but the reality is that most already do,” said Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. But what does seem to help mothers who return after a short maternity leave is coming back to a nurturing and supportive work environment. A flexible work schedule helps employers retain mothers who have just returned to their jobs after giving birth, according to a new study. ”When confronted by one or more job demands, a flexible schedule provides working moms with alternatives for meeting those demands while caring for their newborns. When working moms are better able to control their work environment and adapt, work-related stress is less likely to become a family issue,” study author Dawn S. Carlson, a professor of management at Baylor University. She and her colleagues also found that working women with new babies were more likely to stick with their jobs if they have job security and can make use of a variety of their job skills, while the effects of work-related stress on their physical and mental health increases the risk of them leaving their job. The researchers surveyed 179 full-time working mothers in North Carolina, average age 31, at three intervals, scheduled at four, eight and 12 months after they gave birth. The women had worked an average of 39.7 hours per week and planned on returning to work 30 or more hours a week four months after giving birth.

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