What makes a happy working mom?

December 6, 2017, Springer
Credit: Vera Kratochvil/Public Domain

A happy working mom feels competent in interacting with her child, experiences a sense of freedom and choice in her actions, while having a warm and affectionate relationship with her baby. She is also not too hard on herself about how she is faring as a mother. So says Katrijn Brenning of the University of Ghent in Belgium who led research that investigated what affects a working mother's sense of well-being. The study is published in Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies.

Brenning and her colleagues showed that a mother's sense of well-being drops when she feels inadequate, under pressure, and is alienated from her social circle by her efforts to get to work and be a good parent all at once. Her own baby's temperament has little influence on her sense of well-being, but having a more extrovert child does help some women to feel more positive about motherhood, and to be less hard on themselves.

"Our findings point to a complex interplay between parent and child characteristics in the prediction of maternal wellbeing," says Brenning.

The research team analyzed five days of diary entries made by 126 mothers after their ended and they had to leave their babies at a day-care facility for the first time. This tends to be a particularly stressful episode in the life of working mothers because it is often the first time that they are separated from their children. With maternity leave over, they also need to learn how to balance their work and family lives effectively.

Although the temperament of their children did not have much influence on the mothers' of well-being, Brenning says: "More positive perceptions of the child's temperament were found to buffer to some extent against the affective difficulties associated with a lack of need satisfaction, high need frustration and maternal self-criticism."

Brenning believes that in their interaction with their children, mothers should seek out experiences that also help to satisfy their own daily psychological needs. Mothers should not be too hard on themselves about how they are faring as a mother, search for activities with their baby that they enjoy, and create opportunities to spend with their offspring in a warm and affectionate way. The positive influence and energy this creates could be beneficial in that it allows to interact with their child in a more sensitive, patient, and positive fashion.

The researchers also believe that clinical counsellors should highlight to their female patients how important it is to ensure that their own psychological needs are met, amid the pressures of motherhood and work.

"Need frustration relates to daily distress and to more cold and intrusive parent-child interactions," she says.

The findings highlight how difficult it is for women whose personalities tend to veer towards the depressive and the self-critical to adjust to parenthood. Brenning therefore thinks that prevention and intervention strategies should be in place to help such women cope in their first few months of parenthood.

Explore further: Family factors may influence a child's temperament

More information: Katrijn Brenning et al, Ups and Downs in the Joy of Motherhood: Maternal Well-Being as a Function of Psychological Needs, Personality, and Infant Temperament, Journal of Happiness Studies (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s10902-017-9936-0

Related Stories

Family factors may influence a child's temperament

July 20, 2017
A new study indicates that a child's temperament may be influenced by maternal postpartum depression, maternal sensitivity, and family functioning. Maternal depression was associated with difficult temperaments in infants ...

Researchers find link between maternal satisfaction and involvement of autistic children in daily activities

February 16, 2016
Mothers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often experience stress and suffer from sleep deprivation. Sacrifices almost always follow as they abandon professional careers and personal ambitions, believing that ...

Do mothers really have stronger bonds with their children than fathers do?

April 20, 2016
From the marketplace to the workplace, it is mothers who are still perceived as having that "special bond" with their children. This is compounded by advertising and the widely held expectation that it will be mothers who ...

Children in single-mother-by-choice families do just as well as those in two-parent families

July 5, 2017
A study comparing the well-being of children growing up in single-mother-by-choice and heterosexual two-parent families has found no differences in terms of parent-child relationship or child development. However, the study ...

Older mothers are better mothers

March 21, 2017
The average maternal age has increased steadily for the past many years - and that is actually not so bad. New research from Aarhus BSS shows that older mothers are less likely to punish and scold their children while raising ...

Recommended for you

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Linguistic red flags from Facebook posts can predict future depression diagnoses

October 15, 2018
In any given year, depression affects more than 6 percent of the adult population in the United States—some 16 million people—but fewer than half receive the treatment they need. What if an algorithm could scan social ...

Early changes to synapse gene regulation may cause Alzheimer's disease

October 15, 2018
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, involving memory loss and a reduction in cognitive abilities. Patients with AD develop multiple abnormal protein structures in their brains that are thought to ...

Clues that suggest people are lying may be deceptive, study shows

October 12, 2018
The verbal and physical signs of lying are harder to detect than people believe, a study suggests.

Why don't we understand statistics? Fixed mindsets may be to blame

October 12, 2018
Unfavorable methods of teaching statistics in schools and universities may be to blame for people ignoring simple solutions to statistical problems, making them hard to solve. This can have serious consequences when applied ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.