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Ramon Resa, MD

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Give Up a Career or Give up Motherhood?

Posted: 12/08/09 02:27 AM ET

Mrs. Jones came in to my office for her baby's two-month check-up. Her son was doing great and Mrs. Jones was very happy, but she felt conflicted. She had to decide when or whether to go back to work.

The family depended on her income to make ends meet, but she really did not want to return to full-time employment, even though she loved her job. She never expected to feel so much contentment staying at home with her baby. That, and the thought of leaving him with strangers, was something she had never considered before.

She always wanted a child, but she also knew that motherhood would compromise her ability to advance at work.

This same decision troubles many new mothers. These days, more and more women juggle careers and family, and some make the decision one way or another. In a Huffington Post article, Mika Brzezinski reflects upon this decision, favoring career advancement over staying at home. She argues that after ten years have passed, many women will regret giving up their careers and says that many will find it difficult to jump back into that career mode. Essentially, she wants to make sure that new mothers make an educated decision and hopes that ambitious women do not abandon their dreams.

I do not agree that all women should choose to work full time at the job and at home, and although I have written previously that families should consider having one spouse act as a stay-at-home parent, I agree with Mika's premise that women should choose the path that will make them happiest, though I disagree that one path is best for all women.

Many of my mothers try to balance work and children, only to be constantly interrupted at work by the needs of their children, or at home, by the needs of their work. Often, I have had moms leave work in the middle of a meeting in order to pick up their children for office visits. The rest of the work week may be lost because the children's sickness requires them to stay home. Mothers feel guilty for not being at home with their children, or they feel bad for co-workers who have to pick up the slack.

Women have to make a choice regarding work and motherhood. Frankly, I have seen both paths succeed. Many career moms are happy in their jobs and their kids usually grow up well adjusted. Many stay-at-home mothers are happy that they made the choice to put children first and their kids often thrive under the constant attention.

Other stay-at-home mothers realize that they are not happy. And other career-driven women realize that they missed too much of their children's lives.

I believe that the happiest families belong to those mothers who choose the path that brings the most joy into their own lives. Children are fairly resilient and will adapt to whatever changes are required. They are also astute as sensing unhappiness, disappointment, and apathy.

No matter what a working mother decides to do, she has to make sure that she thinks first of her own completeness and whether she will regret her decision. No matter what the situation is, it is better to make the change then go on regretting the choice made. Nothing is forever and there is always time to correct a wrong decision.