Many Americans still think moms shouldn't work

Jeannie Andaverde (R) searches for a job on the Georgia Department of Labor's computer system as her seven-month-old daughter, Kimberly, sits in a baby carriage beside her on February 12, 2003 in Norcross, Ga.

As parents know, the job is never done. But now, a new study from the Pew Research Center says a certain group of parents wants to work even more. The number of moms who say they want to work full-time has gone up significantly, from 20 percent six years ago to just over 30 percent last year.

It seems like that old saying, tied to your mother’s apron strings, is long overdue for a modern day makeover. But what would the update be -- glued to your mom’s laptop? Because more and more of today’s moms want to work.

“Families now feel like they really need two breadwinners,” says Jennifer Sabatini Fraone, associate director of Boston College’s Center for Work and Family. “The recession has caused families to feel like both parents need to be in the workplace and both parents need to be working full time,” she says.



Almost 40 percent of today’s moms who are already working say it would be ideal to work full-time. That’s almost double the number since Pew’s 2007 survey. Myra Strober, emeritus professor at Stanford, says not to put all the blame on the recession.

“When you think about it, part-time seems like it would be just the right answer,” she says. But Strober notes that while part- time work might conjure up a vision of the perfect life/work balance, part-time jobs often comes without benefits or the opportunity for promition, but with expenses like childcare and transportation.

“So instead of turning out to be the best of all possible worlds, for some women, it turns out to be the worst,” she said.

Then there’s society’s opinion. The Pew Center says only 16 percent of parents agree that working full-time is best for kids. And that number hasn’t changed in recent years.

But, according to the Pew survey, working moms say they make better parents. Sabatini Fraone notes that they already feel like superwomen.

“I think there is some level of confidence that comes from the ability to juggle it all,” she says.

So, as mom might say, look on the bright side. Stay-at-home moms -- they say they're happier than moms with jobs.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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