Relationships: Working Mums Do Their Children Feel They Suffered?; Leaving A Child in Someone Else's Care before They Are A Year Old Can Have Lasting Ill-Effects, According to Latest Research. to Put the Theory to the Test, We Spoke to Four People Whose Mothers Worked When They Were Babies. by Helen Renshaw and Alison Legh-Jones

By Renshaw, Helen; Legh-jones, Alison | Sunday Mirror (London, England), April 9, 2000 | Go to article overview

Relationships: Working Mums Do Their Children Feel They Suffered?; Leaving A Child in Someone Else's Care before They Are A Year Old Can Have Lasting Ill-Effects, According to Latest Research. to Put the Theory to the Test, We Spoke to Four People Whose Mothers Worked When They Were Babies. by Helen Renshaw and Alison Legh-Jones


Renshaw, Helen, Legh-jones, Alison, Sunday Mirror (London, England)


Looked after by childminders

Marketing manager Tina Zanelli-King, 32, lives in North London with husband Andy and their 11-month-old son Joseph. Her mum, Joan, 64, returned to work when Tina was six weeks old. Tina says:

I remember once bringing a friend home and finding my mum cleaning the kitchen floor. My friend thought mum was the hired help - she'd only ever seen me collected by au pairs and didn't know what my mum looked like. Both my parents were medical scientists and mum returned to work when I was six weeks old. I was always proud of her. But secretly, part of me longed for a tidy house and a mum who would appear with trays of drinks, like my friends' mums did.

Mum was 33 when she had me and 36 when my brother was born. By then, she'd worked long and hard and was loathe to give up her career. The world of science was male dominated, and there was no such thing as maternity leave.

Her decision to return to work was frowned on - particularly by my dad's Italian mother. But mum was determined I'd be looked after in a family environment and when I was a baby she'd leave me with a trusted neighbour who acted as an unregistered childminder. Mum would come home to make dinner. But often she'd return to her lab later in the evening and carry on working. Now mum makes much of the fact that we had quality time together - and we did eat and spend weekends as a family.

I do have vague memories of feeling my parents weren't always there for me, though they always attended parent's evenings. The quality time was very planned, but sometimes I didn't want to discuss things over dinner. Time restraints made it difficult to be spontaneous and I do feel that attitude has rubbed off - I'm very organised and tend to stick to routines. Having successful working parents also left me feeling that I was expected to achieve high standards. But I've not always been confident of my ability - and I still suffer from feelings of insecurity. I think that's because I didn't have someone constantly there to reassure me when I was very little. When I was older, we had au pairs who would pick us up from school and make our tea. They were good fun, and in some ways it was nice not having mum around - they were more lenient. I often felt very defensive about mum working - justifying the fact that she wasn't around by saying she had more important things to do. And I was proud - other people's mums seemed boring. I don't know whether we'd have had a stronger bond if she'd stayed at home. When I was little, I was a daddy's girl. But I did get closer to mum when I was a teenager, and now we get on really well. I didn't question the fact that my mum worked when we were so young until I had my own child. I never considered not going back to work. But I've been surprised how it has affected me. I miss my son. The whole issue has caused difficulties over roles in our marriage. Because my husband grew up with a full-time mum, he assumed I'd take on most of the parenting. But it's impossible to be a great career woman and a wonderful mum at the same time. The positive side of having a working mum has been that she was interesting, stimulating and a good role model. It has also made me more independent and practical. The downside is that it's put pressure on me to do the same thing. And it may not be right for me.

Looked after in

a nursery

Simon Pickering, 20, lives with his parents and sister Sadie, 13, in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. His mum Jean, 50, went back to work when Simon was a baby, and the childcare problems she encountered led her to set up her own chain of nurseries, Kids Unlimited. Simon, who is training to be an actor, says:

When I was six months' old, mum went back to work part-time as a lecturer and I was cared for in a college creche. That worked fine, but after a few months circumstances forced mum back full time. Dad's career in the music business wasn't bringing in a stable income, so mum had to make ends meet. …

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Relationships: Working Mums Do Their Children Feel They Suffered?; Leaving A Child in Someone Else's Care before They Are A Year Old Can Have Lasting Ill-Effects, According to Latest Research. to Put the Theory to the Test, We Spoke to Four People Whose Mothers Worked When They Were Babies. by Helen Renshaw and Alison Legh-Jones
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