Whether women want to stay at home full time with their children or work outside the home is a contentious issue that depends on a range of factors, including personal preference. Like any other issue, it's impossible to say what more or most women want to do because every woman's family and career circumstances are different. Economics, cultural background, the children's age and available child care support all affect whether a woman is more likely to stay at home full time or be employed outside the home.
Although many women say they are happy in their role as a working mother, 62 percent say they wish they worked part time, according to the 2012 Pew Research Center poll. This might be because 56 percent of working mothers feel stress about balancing work and family, according to the same report. But working part time isn't as easy as it sounds because many positions -- especially those at the senior or management level -- don't offer part-time opportunities. Even when a profession does offer part-time jobs, they rarely include the health care and retirement benefits of a full-time position.
Many women find being a stay-at-home mother to be the most meaningful and rewarding job of their lives no matter what their professional background, but other women find themselves feeling isolated and depressed. A 2012 Gallup poll of 60,000 women found that stay-at-home mothers were 10 percent more likely to experience sadness and depression compared to those who worked outside the home. Even women who want to stay at home with their babies might find themselves feeling less fulfilled or happy than they'd like.
Cost of Child Care
High-quality day care and nannies are expensive, and if a woman feels uncomfortable with the quality of child care options that she can afford, she might prefer to stay at home with her babies so she can ensure their safety and enrichment. On the other hand, even when cost isn't an issue, not all women are interested in being a stay-at-home mother. According to a survey by the "Today Show" and Parenting.com, 42 percent of women would rather get a 50 percent raise at work than spend 50 percent more time with their children.
Many women would love to stay at home during the first years of their baby's life, but are unable to do so without serious consequences in their working life. As it is, a study published in the "American Sociological Review" found that, on average, a woman's wages decrease 5 percent per child. So, even if a woman would rather stay at home with her baby, she might not be able to do so without sacrificing further income and career advancement.
- Gallup: Stay-At-Home-Moms Report More Depression, Sadness and Anger
- Pew Research: Modern Parenthood
- U.S. Census: Facts for Mother's Day
- Today.com: Stay-at-Home Moms More Depressed
- Today.com: Mom Secrets
- Mother's and Work: What's Ideal?
- Pew Research Center: The Harried Life of the Working Mother
- American Sociological Review: The Wage Penalty for Motherhood
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