New Mothers Face Multiple Employment Challenges

New mothers, full of excitement, worry, anticipation, and joy, are also struggling, revealed a new study from Childbirth Connection. Among a multitude of insights, from physical and emotional problems to experiences with breastfeeding to lack of support from their spouses, the study showed that some new mothers are unsatisfied with their amount of maternity leave, ability to find child care, and overall support from their employer as a new mother.

Paid Leave Benefits

For many new mothers, the joy of caring for a baby is often burdened by the worry of finances. In the Childbirth Connection survey, of those mothers who had been employed by someone else during pregnancy, 40 percent were fortunate that their employer provided paid maternity leave benefits. Half of these were working full time in order to access the benefits, whereas 14 percent were working part time. Of those whose employers provided paid leave, 50 percent had received 100 percent of their regular pay and 80 percent were given at least half of their salary. However, not all women received a salary for the same amount of time. Twenty-seven percent received pay for six weeks, nearly one of four received pay for eight weeks, and 16 percent for 12 weeks.

Returning to Work

When, if, and under what circumstances a new mother returns to work is a large concern for mothers and their employers. By far, the largest challenge to returning to work for mothers was being away from their babies, with 79 percent of survey respondents reporting this dilemma. Nearly half said this was a major issue. Similarly, 51 percent reported having trouble making child care arrangements. Thirty-six percent reported obstacles to breastfeeding at work, which affected their return. Twenty-nine percent of women felt that their workplace provided no support for them as a new mother, a figure that was slightly higher at 36 percent for new mothers working full time.

New Mothers Want a Longer Leave

Among formerly employed mothers, more than a third had returned to work by six weeks, and most (84 percent) were back to work by 12 weeks. Mothers who were employed or on maternity leave varied in their ideal times to be on leave, however overall, the majority wanted more time away from work to be with their newborns. Twenty-eight percent of mothers wanted six months off; 22 percent wanted one year. The majority, 60 percent, reported the ideal fully paid leave time would be at least six months. However, of the new mothers surveyed, just 1 percent of those who were employed outside the home during pregnancy were granted a fully paid leave of four months or more.  

In contrast, of mothers who had transitioned back to paid work, about half (52 percent) had stayed home as long as they wanted. Mothers who did not stay home as long as they preferred returned to work because they could not afford more time off (81 percent). Forty-five percent returned because their leave had ended. Eight percent returned out of fear of losing their jobs and another 7 percent worried that they would miss opportunities for career advancement.

Child Care Arrangements

To care for their new babies, new mothers are utilizing a number of resources, many utilizing several. On average, mothers are using 1.2 child care providers. About a quarter of mothers listed more than one provider in addition to themselves. Five percent of mothers said they were responsible for child care while at work. Mothers who were working full time relied mostly on family, with 35 percent relying on a relative and 30 percent relying on either their husband or partner. Thirty percent of mothers use child care providers and 23 percent child care centers. Of mothers working part time, about half relied on their partners and 41 percent on family. Nearly one in four utilized a child care center.  

For more details about this study, please click here.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

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