Dr Phionah Atuhebwe lives and works away from home. She shares her experiences. Last Sunday, I was in church trying to focus on my French and Lingala Holy mass or else I would lose the context. My phone rang off the hook, thanks to smart watches that will ensure you do not miss any call. It was my children’s nanny in Uganda calling. Having spoken to the children minutes prior to church, I sent a text that I was in church and she should only text me but the calls persisted and I had to walk out of church and return the call.
On the receiving end, a small voice went “hello mummy, sorry, I know you were in church but a quick request, can we please go swimming? Now, that is parenting by remote. When did we get there again! However, any mother who works away from her children will tell you that the involvement in the small daily decisions is what keeps us going.
On almost a daily basis, I get the “Oh my God, don’t your children miss you? I would never be able to be away from my children”. The other version is the “okikola otya (how do you juggle all this)?” kind of comments. And of course the “aren’t you afraid your husband will cheat on you?”
At the risk of being shot by chauvinists (if such a thing exists), I will tell you that my life as not only a working mother who lives away from my family, but one who travels most if not all the time, is intentionally lived and on no single day have I taken that guilt trip that society is willing to pay for, because of my work unlike many other working mums.
The purpose of this to encourage mothers who work away from home ending up spending lots of time away from your children. Those who disagree, please do not read further.
As a scientist, in God we trust, all others must bring data. I believe in evidence based information as opposed to sentiments.
On that note, I have taken time to read and correlate my findings with what is happening in my life and this is what I have discovered.
Numerous studies have shown that the pressure society places on women to stay home and do what is “best for the child” is based on emotion, not evidence.
In 1991, more than 30 child development experts from leading universities initiated a comprehensive study on the relationship between child care and child development. They tracked over 1,000 children and followed them up for 15 years. In 2006, these were some of their findings. “Children who were cared for exclusively by their mothers did not develop differently than those who were cared for by others. There is no gap in cognitive skills, language competence, social competence, ability to build and maintain relationships, or in the quality of their mother-child bond.”
However, (now pay attention) parental behavioural factors including fathers who are responsive and positive, mothers who favour “self-directed child behaviour,” and parents with emotional intimacy in their marriages - influence a child’s development two or three times more than any form of child care.
If all this is abstract for you, just take away this one finding:
“Exclusive maternal care (babies only looked after by mothers) was not related to better or worse outcomes for children. There is, thus, no reason for mothers to feel as though they are harming their children if they decide to work.”
Despite the distance...
Children need parental involvement, love, care, time and attention. But parents who work outside the home are still capable of giving their children a loving and secure childhood. Some data even suggests that having two parents working outside the home can be advantageous to a child’s development, particularly girls.
Dear fellow working mothers, let society not put you under pressure, go out and make a difference in the world - for a better tomorrow of your children. What children need, is the reassurance of a loving environment and caretakers (reason why the nanny you choose is very very important”
Coping mechanisms are many but above all, work on your marriages and let God do his job with the rest.