Monday, April 21, 2014

Stay-at-Home Moms

Do you think children are better off when a parent stays home to focus on them and the family rather than working outside of the home?

60% of Americans in a recent Pew Research Center survey agreed that children are better off when a parent can stay home with children.

What I found somewhat surprising in the data is that more mothers with children younger than age 18 are not working outside of the home. compared to past years.

29% are now stay-at-home mothers compared to just 23% in 1999.  In 2008, 26% of mothers were stay-at-home.

By comparison, 49% were stay-at-home mothers in 1967.

Why the change over the last decade?

The number one reason appears to be the economy.  6% of stay-at-home mothers say that they are home because they cannot find a job.  That number was a mere 1% in 2000.

A related reason appears to be that the costs for day and child care have increased dramatically over the last two decades. Pew cites a 2010 census report that child care expenses for families with working mothers rose more than 70 per cent in inflation-adjusted dollars between 1985 and 2011.  Therefore, for many women, especially in lower paid occupations, the economics simply do not add up the way it used to.

Another chart in the Pew Survey that I was interested in was the comparison of how stay-at-home mothers spends their time compared to working mothers.

Last year I read Jonathan Last's book "What To Expect When No One's Expecting" which looks at the challenging consequences to society of declining birth rates.  In that book I uncovered this interesting factual comparison which I cited in my blog post, "Mothers, Young Muslims and Old Movies".

  • In 1965, when the average woman had three children and was a stay-at-home mother, she spent 10.6 hours per week on the kids. The average mother worked 6 hours per week. The average married father dedicated 2.6 hours per week to the brood. 

  • Today, even with 60% of mothers working outside the home (an overall average of 23.6 hours per week), they are putting in an average of 12.6 hours per week with the kids and fathers have cranked it up to 6.5 hours per week.  No wonder parents are so stressed and frazzled today.  There are still only 24 hours in a day!

Here is the Pew chart on how stay-at-home and working moms spend their time.

The Pew survey shows working mothers spend 11 hours on child care compared to the 12.6 hours cited in the Last book.  However, it still represents more time than the average of 10.6 hours the stay-at home mom was spending with the kids in 1965.  The Pew survey shows that stay-at-home mother today spending an average of 18 hours of week with child care.  That's almost 70% more time than in the mid-1960's.

Where do today's working mothers find the time to work an average of 30 hours per week (considering both full time and part time work).  After all, no one has more than 168 hours in a week.

Housework   9 hours
Child care     7 hours
Leisure          9 hours
Sleep             5 hours

None of that is surprising.  Something has to give.  Sacrifices and trade-offs have to be made.

What's the surprise for me in that Pew chart?

Even working mothers are getting an average of more than 8 hours of sleep?  That's hard to believe.

In fact, that's the most astounding stat I have seen this year.

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