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The 6 Secrets of Happy Moms

Satisfaction With Your Work Situation

I held a 9-to-5 job during my firstborn's infancy. With my second child, I tried being an at-home mom. Neither arrangement suited me, so I found a way to work from home about 30 hours a week.

Some new moms believe that it's best to stay home once they become a parent, even if it requires making a financial sacrifice. Others say they can work and still be a good mother; they feel a responsibility to contribute to the family income, see working as healthy and as their right, and feel positive about professional childcare. Or they lean toward caring for their baby full-time but run that desire through a cost-benefit analysis. Some then wind up working, and others don't. Still others, like me, search for new ways to achieve work-family balance, such as splitting shifts with their partner or working from home.

"Your satisfaction depends more on what you think you should be doing than what you're actually doing," says Angela Hattery, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, NC. "It's important to first decide what you feel is the right way to be a good mom, and then make the best choice you can from there."

Even though two-thirds of women with kids under age 6 work, Hattery notes, employed moms have the roughest road to happiness  -- even if they adore their job. That's because "the dominant image out there of a 'good mother' is the June Cleaver stay-at-home type," she says. "It's difficult to resist that image."

What can help you feel comfortable with your decision: trusting your own instincts about what's right for you and for your family. Remember, there's no "best" way to be a mother.