Mark Dolliver’s Takes: Work’s Not So Hot

The allure of the workplace continues to fade for mothers. In polling by the Pew Research Center among mothers of kids 17 and younger, 20 percent said full-time work is the ideal situation for them—leaving them outnumbered by the 29 percent who’d find it ideal not to work at all outside the home. Fifty percent said a part-time gig would be ideal. The chart gives a breakdown for at-home mothers vs. working mothers.

The decline in enthusiasm for full-time work is especially noteworthy among working women: Ten years ago, 32 percent considered it the ideal, half again the number who do so now. Mothers of kids age 4 and under are another constituency that has turned against full-time jobs. In 1997, 31 percent of them said full-time work is ideal, vs. 16 percent now saying so.

Another part of the survey gives a hint at why full-time work is in disfavor. Asked to rate their performance as mothers, 28 percent of full-time workers gave themselves the highest marks, vs. 41 percent of part-timers and 43 percent of stay-at-homes. Few working mothers (11 percent) think it’s best for kids when mom works full time; 52 percent said a mother working part-time is best for kids, and 30 percent said it’s best when mothers don’t work at all outside the home.