Working mothers are so stressed out and disillusioned with the struggle of juggling home and work lives that the majority would rather be at home with their child, according to new research.
A survey of 2,000 women with young children by Mother & Baby magazine showed that two out of three would rather be full time mothers than return to work. Despite the Governmentís efforts to tackle family poverty by persuading more parents to find work, mothers who do so are "wracked" with guilt, the report says, and more than nine out of ten wished they were at home with their child.
For the one in ten working mums who have none of their salary left after paying for childcare, the Governmentís message will sound even more hollow.
The difficulties of juggling work and home life are compounded by the fact that women are over three and a half times more likely than men to report that they do most of the household tasks themselves, and over 12 times more likely to report that they do most of the childcare.
Most of the women surveyed believed that work was forcing them to miss out on their child's early years and many complained of being tired or stressed. Most also said they were often too tired for sex and did not have a good social life.
Karen Pasquali-Jones, editor of the magazine, said the vast majority of working mothers with young children longed for full-time motherhood.
There were Government initiatives to help working mothers, but nothing for women who wanted to stay at home full time with their children, she added.
Earlier this year, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation came to much the same conclusion, finding that most working mothers would reduce their hours or stop working altogether if they could afford to do so.
"The fact is that for many mothers, working is simply not worth their while financially. No wonder many mothers question whether it is worth missing out on their children's childhood for a meagre amount," Pasquali-Jones added.
But speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, who is also Minister for Women, agreed that mothers who stay at home and bring up their children rather than going out to work have been under-valued by the Government.
"If I look back over the last six years I do think that we have given the impression that we think all mothers should be out to work, preferably full time as soon as their children are a few months old," she told the newspaper.
"We have got to move to a position where as a society and as a Government we recognise and we value the unpaid work that people do within their families. That's mothers but also fathers and people looking after elderly relatives or people with disabilities."