More Moms Say Full-Time Work Is Ideal

PHOTO:  A woman feeds her daughter and works.

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Moms are far more interested in working full time than they were just five years ago, a shift in mindset possibly brought on by recent tough economic conditions.

Thirty-two percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 said they wanted to work full time in 2012, according to a new study on modern parenthood from the Pew Research Center. That is a 12-point increase over the 20 percent who said so in 2007, before the economy tanked.

And while more women are inclined to say working full time is the ideal situation for them, only 16 percent of all adults think a young child should have a mom who works full time, a sign that "traditional" gender roles are still very much in play. Most adults, 42 percent, think moms should work part time, and about a third say young children fare best when their moms don't work outside the home at all.

Predictably, finances appear to play a strong role in how people feel about paid work. Women who are financially well-off are less likely to say working full time is their ideal situation. And while unmarried mothers are far more likely than in 2007 to say working full time is ideal, the numbers haven't shifted much for married moms.

According to Pew, marriage is a "significant predictor of a mother's happiness while employment status is not," when factors such as race, ethnicity, income and education are taken into account. Nearly one third of blacks say the ideal situation for young children is to have a mother who works full time, while far fewer Hispanics, 17 percent, and whites, 13 percent, feel the same. Blacks are more likely than Hispanics, who are more likely than whites, to have children outside of marriage.

The roles that moms and dads play in raising children have converged somewhat over the years, and tasks are most equally shared among married couples, which may have something to do with married moms' happiness. Today, dads spend more time on childcare and housework than they did in 1965, and slightly less time on paid work. Moms, predictably, spend more time on paid work than they did in the 1960s, but interestingly, they spend more time on childcare per week, too. Moms spend significantly less time on housework, however.

Overall both moms and dads say they are busier now than they were in the 1960s, and not surprisingly, they also report feeling more stressed.

While moms are more likely to say they want to work full time than in previous years, and dads are more likely to say they wish they could be at home raising kids, there are still distinct differences between the two. Fathers place more emphasis on having a high-paying job while mothers want a flexible schedule.

Even in light of the added stresses and divided schedules, both mothers and fathers award themselves high marks for parenting. Interestingly, moms who are working are more likely than moms who are not working to give themselves high marks as parents. While 78 percent of working moms say they do an excellent or very good job as parents, only 66 percent of moms who don't work say the same.

"A lot has changed for women and men in the 50 years since Betty Friedan wrote 'The Feminine Mystique,'" noted the survey. "Women have made major strides in education and employment, and the American workplace has been transformed. But with these changes have come the added pressures of balancing work and family life, for mothers and fathers alike."

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