The grandmother quit her part time job to help take care of the baby, and drive the baby to the mother during the mother's work breaks and lunch. The grandmother learned that elementary school teachers have few breaks. Teachers are expected to be available for recess duty and on cold days, indoor recess.
Was Mary's experience unusual? A study of 700 working mothers of infants found that any protective qualities of work, such as positive perceptions of health and improved physical functioning, were reduced for mothers of young children. These mothers had greater conflicts between work and family than mothers of older children (Marshall & Tracy, 2009, p. 380)
Another study showed that mothers of infants were more likely to have maternal work stress, negative work-family spillover, and depressive symptoms (Goodman & Crouter, 2009, p 245). This led to poorer outcomes for the infant. Both studies recommend public policies that help mothers to be home with their children at tender young ages because of evidence of the long term negative effects of prolonged separation of young children from their mothers. This perhaps could be because it violates the principles of attachment theory, which have been robustly confirmed with numerous studies that infants need to establish a connection with a primary caregiver.
Mothers who need to go to work should work to find solutions, including going to their teachers' or company's unions to demand breaks throughout their workday, so that they can use a breast pump and/or visits from their baby to maintain their milk supply. Such measures could help reduce the grief, stress and depression that new mothers can feel when they must go back to work.
Goodman, W. B. & Crouter, A. C. (2009). Longitudinal Associations between maternal work stress,
negative work-family spillover, and depressive symptoms. Family Relations: Interdisciplinary
Journal of Applied Family Studies: July 2009, volume 58, number 3.
Marshall, N. L. & Tracy, A.L. (2009). After the baby: Work-family conflict and working mothers'
psychological health. Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies:
October 2009, volume 58, number 4.