The well-being of a working mother depends more on whether her own psychological needs are met or not, finds a study, challenging the popular belief that a new mother's happiness depends on the temperament of her baby.
When a working mother experiences a sense of freedom and choice in her actions, she feels more competent in interacting with her child, as well as tends to have a warm and affectionate relationship with the baby.
The mother's sense of well-being drops when, in her efforts to strike a balance between her career and also be a good parent, the study showed, she feels inadequate, under pressure, and gets alienated from her social circle.
"Our findings point to a complex interplay between parent and child characteristics in the prediction of maternal well-being," said Katrijn Brenning, researcher at the University of Ghent in Belgium.
During this tumultuous phase, the baby's temperament has little influence on the mother's well-being. However, a more extrovert child does help some women to feel more positive about motherhood, and to be less hard on themselves, the researchers noted.
"More positive perceptions of the child's temperament were found to buffer to some extent against the affective difficulties associated with a lack of need satisfaction, high need frustration and maternal self-criticism," Brenning added.
In the study, published in the journal Happiness Studies, the team analysed 126 new mothers for a period of five days after their maternity leave ended and highlighted how difficult it is for women whose personalities tend to veer towards the depressive and the self-critical to adjust to parenthood.
Prevention and intervention strategies should be in place to help such women cope in their first few months of parenthood.
Mothers should also never be too hard on themselves about how they are faring as a mother, rather should search for activities with their baby that both the mothers and babies would enjoy, the researchers suggested.