Ask Me to Work When My Kids Are Grown

The era in which mothers cheerfully left their kids and trooped off to full-time jobs is looking more and more like an aberration. Plenty are still trooping, of course, but the “cheerfully” part is often missing. A survey by Redbook adds to the growing evidence that stay-at-home motherhood is reasserting its old primacy as the ideal for women with young kids.

Let’s start with the most telling numbers in the poll: 35 percent of mothers who work full-time said they envy stay-at-home mothers, while 15 percent of the latter said they envy working mothers. Meanwhile, 65 percent of the stay-at-home mothers said they’re pleased with the choice they’ve made. Obviously, many mothers get great satisfaction from their careers, but they’re a minority. Just 27 percent of full-timers said they have those jobs because they want them and find them fulfilling. Fifty-seven percent endorsed the statement, “I would quit my job this instant if we didn’t need the money.” Many working mothers seek part-time jobs or work they can do from home, but these aren’t easy to come by.

In its own analysis of the data, Redbook notes the fact that many of today’s parents grew up as the latchkey kids of full-time working parents during the 1970s, “in a decade of significant divorce rates.” The new mothers “don’t want to make the same mistakes and are trying harder to keep their families together.” Maternal guilt is (as always)a factor, too, especially in light of recent research that indicates young children may fare better when their mothers are not in the workplace full-time.