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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It's incredibly sexist to claim the woman "must" stay home or even claim it's "best for the children" because of some draconian outdated view of gender roles in today's society. If the christians don't want to raise their children and men think they are "less of a man" for staying home I often wonder why they even marry to begin with.

I also have a bone to pick with those who are intimidated by their wife's higher income. It makes no sense to me to keep the one home who can earn the most period. The comment about the poor marrying other poor people is strange. Do they really think life is like the Pretty Woman movie? When both parents are working full time it makes more sense to me despite all of the previously mentioned drawbacks.

When a woman with a degree but no work history starts applying for jobs she's less likely than any man with children in the same situation to get a job. I cringe to think how the conversation would go. Employers then may view them as more opportunistic than looking for a long term job/career. If the woman is only looking for a job because her husband lost his they may wonder how long she will stay before her husband finds another job. It's also very rude and illegal in some states to pester women to see if they have kids, how many, or when they're planning to have them.

Personally I had a creepy old man interview me and ask if I thought women should burn in hell for having premarital sex. I have also had a gross old man follow me out into the parking lot to see if I had any signs of a kid by stalking me to my car. His last employee had kids and lied to him about it and I got the brunt of his disturbing behavior. The workplace is hostile enough for women without demanding they stay home and throw away everything they worked for. It seems as though college is pointless for women in this country as those who would rather have a husband stay home, run their own business, or pursue their career are going to continue to be seen as "inferior" or as "less than a woman/mom" for doing so.

Sadly, they didn't ask how much yard work the women do, which leads me to think the article is biased. I do ALL the yard work and more than half the house work, which I don't have a problem with because I grew up working on a farm to become janitor for a restaurant. I also can fix any major appliance, computers, and basic vehicle maintenance. My only problem is that I also have a full time job, and don't care to hear the complaining I get is all.

Being a full time care giver is a full time job. I have always been a hard worker, I worked for for 17 years full time, 6 days a week 8-8 and often till 11pm. I have been a full time mom, for the last 17 years, and I have given 110% with out any financial compensation, retirement benefits, or the ability to contribute to an IRA. I have worked harder as a full time caregiver, than at my former office job. At my "job" I got a lunch hour, and my work day had an end. As a parent you work 24/7, there is no lunch hour. I left my job because my salary after taxes just paid for a caregiver from 8-6pm, with nothing left over, and I had a child with challenges that needed me 24/7. All of my children have done extremely well due to my tireless work on their behalf's, this would not have happened if I had gone"back to work" especially in the case of my challenged child. It was my choice, to put his welfare ahead of my own, and I would make it again. But the contempt that women who have chosen to stay home and care for a child are greeted with is awful. Being a care giver is hard, important work. Some of those critic should walk a mile in my shoes for a day. No one should assume that when a women chooses to work as a care giver full time that she is "not really working." All women deserve respect regardless of their work choices, that is true equality.

The problem with having both parents work is that it increases the gap between rich and poor. High income earners tend to marry high income earners and low income earners tend to marry low income earners. So when it's expected for both spouses to work, the well off families become more well off, and the struggling families struggle more.

I can empathize with GJacq726, however, I have experienced both ends of the spectrum and I can tell you that, (peer reviewed scientific evidence aside) I notice a huge benefit to my wife staying at home with our children. My wife has her doctorate degree in Pharmacy and we could increase our current income 10 fold if she chose to go back to work. However, we have made a collective decision that we would rather be the one's to raise our children instead of a day-care provider. That said, I fully respect the decision made by parents to place their children in childcare. Our belief of the importance in mothers staying home with their children most likely stems from our own upbringing. Both of our mothers stayed at home with us prior to us entering into school, and intermittently thereafter. If an individual chooses to work and leave their children in daycare, depending on the hours of work, that means that the children will see the daycare provider for more time than they see the parents. In addition, when we did experiment with daycare, the morning was rushed to get the kids out, and the afternoon was a low energy, tired time of day, thus influencing our ability to spend quality time with our children. I have had many moments of happiness created by my wife sending me pictures and videos of our children when she would have otherwise been at work. Furthermore, my wife consistently mentions to me all of the wonderful, influential moments that she experiences with our children, and the fact that if they were in day care, she would have missed such heart felt events. We live a very humble lifestyle as I am in grad school and we are living off of a meager GA assistantship. Life is tough right now, but I wouldn't change it for the world. As a husband, I support my wife working if she so desires, my objective, however, is to earn enough income to support the entire family and give her the option of staying home. While it is mere anectdotal evidence that we provide, we are firm believers in the positive effects a mother can have on her children when staying home with them, especially during the early years. However, if it is possible financially, I fully endorse the staying home of one parent (husband or wife) during the early ages of their children. We have traded in a 100k+ lifestyle, for a humbler one. We had to sell one of our cars, move into a tiny apartment, put a halt on our frequent shopping trips, and not eat out. While I miss the nice car, new clothes, $4.00 coffees, frequent vacations, and buying nice gifts for our friends and family, these are dwarfed by the positive effects of my wife choosing to stay at home. I conclude with the disclaimer that I respect the decision of parents to work due to lifestyle desires and/or financial necessity. It boils down to a matter of priority.

"The Pew Center says only 16 percent of parents agree that working full-time is best for kids."

There is something to be said for how a question is asked, because it affects the response. "Best for kids"? Even I can't say with certainty it is "best for kids", but it certainly isn't the worst. Based on evidence and personal experience, I have long held the belief that parent's happiness is a key to "best for kids", and I am much better mother working than I was when I was out of work, and not because I feel like I have to do so or that it makes me feel like superwoman. I ENJOY my vocation, and I have a wonderful home partner in my husband. WE make it work. WE support each other's happiness and our children's. I guess this article irked me with the stereotypes evident in the research and expert opinions. Had to put in my .02.

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