The author of a new book about motherhood is warning moms that returning to work too soon after giving birth can be damaging to their child’s mental health.
In Being There, Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters, psychoanalyst Erica Kosimar says the stress caused by being away from their mothers on a daily basis had a negative impact on children’s mental health.
“I was actually seeing an epidemic level of mental disorders in very young children who were being diagnosed and medicated at an earlier and earlier age,” Kosimar said in a video for the New York Post.
Kosimar believes the “devaluing of motherhood in society” is responsible for the increase of mental health issues in children.
“Our society tells women go back to work, do what you want, they’ll be OK,” she explained. “But they’re not OK.”
According to Kosimar’s research, working mothers spend as little as 90 minutes with their babies in the evening before putting them to bed – only to find their children aren’t sleeping through the night because they are craving their mother’s attention. Kosimar uses studies on attachment theory to support her claim that children’s stress levels decrease when their mother’s return.
While maternity leave in Canada can now be supported for up to 18 months, Kosimar’s findings are particularly troubling for the United States, where paid maternity leave is not guaranteed by federal law.
“The ideal maternity leave would be one year of fully paid leave for all women of all backgrounds,” she said. “When we give mothers the option of being home in the first three years we increase the emotional security and reduce mental disorders.”
Although Kosimar’s findings are concerning the reality is, financially speaking, many women don’t have the option to stay home with their children.
In her new book, Kosimar says that in order to help offset the damage of being away from their children, mothers can do two things to help reconnect with their children after work.
First, put all distractions including phones and tablets away while spending time with your children. Second, despite young children adhering to strict schedules, Kosimar says mothers should consider pushing back bedtime to maximize time spent with their children.
“Let them stay up much later,’ Kosimar advises. “Ninety minutes a day is not enough to provide children with emotional security, regulate their emotions and buffer them from stress.”
Kosimar says it’s important not to put the blame of her findings on working mothers. Instead, she believes that society needs to place a greater value on motherhood if we are to rectify the issue of increasing mental health issues in children. “On a societal level we need to recognize mothers work is valuable work. We emphasize material success and professional achievement, but there is no more valuable or more important work.”