A new study posted in Time shows that more mothers are staying at home. The number of stay-at-home moms has been shrinking for decades. In 2012 only 1/5 of of American children had a stay-at-home mom and a working dad. But recently there has been an increase in stay home moms.
The rise in numbers of moms who are not working for pay outside the home is slow and uneven, but definite. Since 2000, the percentage has risen from 23% to 29%. It’s risen from 26% since just 2008, according to the study.
But this doesn’t mean more women are intentionally opting out of the workforce, as I have, in order to raise their children. Many women are staying home to raise their kids because they simply can’t find work. The majority of stay home moms are non-white, foreign born, and have only a high school degree.
“Only 41% of single moms say their primary reason for not working is to look after their families; more of them either can’t find work, can’t work because of illness or are studying. Most mothers say they’d like to work,” Time reports.
The study looked at how much time stay home moms are actually spending on childcare. Less educated moms are spending about 17 hours on childcare while more educated moms spend an average of 24 hours per week on childcare. A word on statistics—I leave it to the experts! I could never devise a study like this or even calculate the hours I spend at home on childcare. (Does watching Sponge Bob with my 6-year-old count?) There’s a lot of data to analyze and interpret, but what this study tells us is that children of stay home moms who are uneducated and/or living in poverty may not be gaining a lot of advantages from having a parent at home.
The upsurge in numbers of moms at home doesn’t reflect a conscientious return to a more “traditional” mode of child-rearing, or a new “winner” in the ongoing, rarefied battle between working moms and stay-at-home-moms. These numbers reflect people, in situations—often not of their choosing.
We need to re-think education and public policy to get more women with children in positions to choose if, how, where, and when they work. Let’s lift the hands that hang down whether they are “working” or not.
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