Veteran psychoanalyst Erica Komisar is encouraging mothers to prioritize their children over their careers. She spells out her argument in a new book published last week, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.
Already, the working mother of three has been called “anti-feminist.” Writing for TIME Monday, Komisar says she’s a feminist, but “child-centric.”
“I strongly believe that women and men should have equal opportunities and choices,” Komisar writes. “I also believe that both women and men, whether they work or not, should put their children first in every way.”
Rising Levels of Anxiety and Depression
Komisar’s insights come from working as a psychoanalyst, social worker and parent guidance expert for over 25 years.
“In my practice I was seeing an epidemic level of children with emotional problems related to the absence of mothers,” she told Fox News. The emotional problems appeared in one in five kids and included anxiety, depression, aggression and ADHD. A child’s chance for such problems increase when their mother returns to work after a short maternity leave, Komisar said.
But not all women can afford to stay home for three years after their child is born. This is something Komisar understands.
It’s not about working or not working, she said of Being There. “It’s a book about prioritizing your children to the best of your ability in the first three years.”
“The first three years are what we call the critical period of brain development,” she said. “By three years old 85 percent of your right brain, or social-emotional brain, is developed.”
She also noted that “you can be there physically, but not emotionally … Being emotionally present means putting away your distractions.”
Pressured to Prioritize Work
But many women feel pressured to prioritize work over children.
Last month Australian columnist Sarrah Le Marquand suggested it be illegal for moms to stay home. The Atlantic published a series last year exploring in part the struggle working mothers face in deciding what to prioritize. Women like Sheryl Sandberg continue to push hard for women to run half of the world’s companies, viewing anything short of the 50/50 goal as a sign of sexism. This is despite the fact that millennials embrace a more traditional family structure. The Washington Post also reported married mothers’ participation in the labor force hasn’t grown since the 90s.
“I dream of a society where women aren’t asked to put their careers before all else at the risk of stunting their own potential,” Komisar writes.
She is glad that today’s women have more choices to pursue careers than previous generations. “But having choices means not that we should, but that we can, if we want to.”
“You may never become a chief executive if you choose to make your family your first priority, and that’s a loss,” she writes. “But sacrificing the chance to create a close relationship with your children is a loss, too.”
Moms and Dad: Both Important, but Different
Komisar told Fox News that while both moms and dads are critical to nurturing their children, “they’re not exactly the same.”
That’s because men and women react differently to oxytocin. Oxytocin is the “love hormone” the brain releases when caring for one’s children.
“For women it makes them more empathic and sensitive nurturers,” she said. “For men it makes them more playful, and it makes them encourage their children to be resilient.”
“Life is long, and you have many, many years to work and be ambitious and make money,” Komisar told Fox News. “You only have a few years to have that great influence on your children.” (For more from the author of “Parenting Coach Urges Mothers to ‘Prioritize’ Children in New Book” please click HERE)