How is your working mom?

Cathy Brownfield

Back in 1999 I was working full time. I truly enjoyed my job. I honed my writing skills there, and my editing skills. I was afforded opportunities to meet people, write their stories and see them published in the newspapers for whom I worked.


There is something about working full time, parenting full time, homemaking full time. And then there was the father of my children who expected some of my attention, as well. At the time I recall reading that there are four domains in a woman’s life: her husband, her children, her home, and her employer. But she has time for only three. Which should she exclude?

Personally, if I was at home with my family, I felt guilty for not being at work. And when I was at work, I felt guilty because I was not at home. Which should be my priority?

I was on medical leave that summer. I noticed something. I sat in the sunporch reading. The kitchen door was ajar. And I heard something I hadn’t heard for some time: the laughter of my children. That joyful laughter warmed my heart!

There was a minor crisis at home when I returned to work from medical leave. I took it as a warning for my priority list. As much as I loved my job and loved the people I worked with, family was – and always has been – my highest priority. I immediately tendered my resignation. My supervisor said, “Cath, you know what time of year this is.” The holiday cook-off and cookbook. Yes. I knew. And he had no idea how bad I felt, but the well being of my children was my first priority, my first obligation and responsibility.


Today as I have read information from the National Institutes of Health, I have noted this: “… the transition to parenthood often restricts mothers’ agency to engage in fulltime work, as mothers’ dual responsibilities to work and the home lead them to accumulate fewer years of experience, lower wages, and lest prestigious work than men and non-mothers.”

The article, “The Relationships Between Mothers’ Work Pathways and Physical and Mental Health,” notes that “at the start of the 21st century 78 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 were employed.” The article cites the work benefits give “financial security, health insurance, social networks and self-worth.” But, marital status, socioeconomic status, occupation and caregiving also influence a mother’s employment.

At the age of 40, the authors write, women’s health risks include greater incidences of chronic illness, higher levels of depression and earlier onset of disability. Full time work, they add, higher skilled work, is associated with higher self-esteem, higher self-efficacy [the belief that you are in control of your own life], and personal control. The greater the economic security, the better an individual’s health, they say.

Looking around at the older women I know, some are still working, still driving skillfully, still active in their communities, which clicks with something Eloise Traina said to me when I mentioned retirement. Don’t, she said. Keep working.

Actually, in retirement I wasn’t looking at sitting in a rocking chair until I die. I have a lot of interests and also writing goals yet unmet because, again, family is my greatest priority, including a 7-year-old I look after while his mother works. And we mustn’t discount the “sandwich generation,” those working mothers who aren’t just raising children toward the finish line, but are also looking after their aging parents who require a little assistance to remain independent.

It looks like “cause and effect,” which means, “what we do at Point A will have effects down the line at Point B.” Some of us pull back from employment because of the demands we feel are placed on us. Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. How much can one woman do and still have time to tend to self-care? (Refer back to paragraph two.)

March 12 is National Working Moms Day. How can you hep make a positive difference in the lives of the working mothers in your life?

Family Recovery Center has professional staff who are ready to listen when you have no one else to talk to. The goal is for the health and well-being of all. Contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or email Visit the website at You can find Family Recovery Center at Facebook. FRC is funded in part by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.