Flexible work hours top working moms' list of career priorities as they strive to achieve better work-life balance, a new study shows.

Conducted by job matching service TheLadders, the survey revealed that more than 40 percent of women who are (or soon will be) working mothers care most about having flexible hours after returning to work following their maternity leave. Another top priority was having the option to work from home.

Of least importance were onsite daycare, longer maternity leaves and paternity leave options, according to the research.

Alex Douzet, chief operating officer and co-founder of TheLadders, said the survey shows working mothers are eager to return to the office when it is a comfortable and rewarding transition.

"We have seen a growing desire for job seekers to work in – and return to – an environment that understands and supports their personal values," Douzet said. "Employer sensitivity for the unique needs of working mothers will help drive employee satisfaction and retention."

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While the research found that finances are moms’ main reason for returning to work, a close second was because they simply enjoy their career. Needing health care and child care benefits and just wanting to get out of the house were less motivating factors.

When moms do return to the office, the study found they often feel frustrated by colleagues’ lack of understanding of their new stresses. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said co-workers were supportive but didn’t understand their situation, while 16 percent said teammates were resentful of their new competing priorities or schedule.

The study was based on surveys of 250 female professionals in a number of industries, including construction, education, engineering, finance, human resources, law, marketing, medical/science, operations, real estate, sales and technology.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at chadgbrooks@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.

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