“My child has just started play school. Every morning he cries, clings to me and tells me that he doesn’t want to go. I realize he will probably be fine once I leave, but I have difficulty leaving him behind and focusing on work. I worry about him, feel guilty and call his day care several times. I feel like crying myself”
Many working mothers feel sad about leaving their children in the care of others and say that their friends and family don’t understand their feelings and sometimes even belittle or ignore them. The dual pressures these mothers experience create role conflicts and separation anxiety.
There is a relationship between mothers’ own early attachment experiences and their separation anxieties.
- Mothers who didn’t plan to return to work after giving birth, who waited to return to work until their infants were older,who work fewer hours per week, who are less invested in their employment role (i.e. less education) and more invested in their child care role have greater employment related separation anxieties.
- Mothers who preferred employment and who are less traditional in their gender role behavior are less anxious about separation anxiety and it’s effects on their infants.
- Maternal role conflict and separation anxiety may lead to depression.
- Mothers who wanted careers, yet experience high separation anxiety are at risk for depression if they choose not to work.
- Prolonged, constant, extreme maternal separation anxiety interferes with parent’s and child’s routine.
- Mothers with negative early parental care-giving experiences (i.e. rejection, discouragement of independence), negative childhood memories and insecure attachments have high levels of separation anxiety.