Thursday, March 20, 2008
Stay at Home Moms: Not So Many
Painting by the beloved Swedish artist Carl Larsson of his wife Karin nursing one of their eight children. Karin Larsson was an artist in her own right but stopped painting when she married. However, she continued to design and weave textiles, such as the cloth on the table, in her lovely home, as she raised their children.
I was surprised to learn that the percentage of stay-at-home moms in the USA is not very high. In 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 26.5 million married households in the United States with children under the age of 18. Of these married households, in only 7,923,000 the mother is not in the workforce--or 29.8 percent. That is, only 30 percent of married women with children stay at home to care for their younguns. (I do not know how the Census Bureau counts mothers who work out of their homes in all kinds of cottage industry or those who spend time helping their husbands in small businesses run from homes but I have a feeling they are included in the 7.9 million.)
This means that by far the greater number of the nation's children are living with a mother who is in the labor force--either a mother who is married and working or a single mother who is working or a mother who is working and living with a man to whom she is not married. Surely the proportions of mothers in the labor force must be far higher for unmarried women with children.
I find this to be an unfortunate statistic, and hopefully the percentage of stay at home mothers will grow over the course of the next years.
I recently asked my daughter, who is now 18, how she would feel if she were married and had children and stayed at home with them, and then went to a cocktail party or some-such function in which people were talking about their careers, and she were asked, "And what do you do?" Would she be embarrassed to say, "Oh, I take care of my kids at home"? She said, "No, why would I feel embarrassed?"
That was good news to me. I pressed her to make sure she meant it. I told her that even though I think it is far better for women to stay at home with their children, I would feel ashamed to say it in front of a group of people who were all talking about their careers. This shame is completely counter to my views about staying at home with children and counter to what I even would have liked have done in my life but did not do for reasons that need no elaboration. Such shame comes purely from counterculture conditioning over the period of the 1970s and 1980s. That's bad news about me, but it is good news to see that my daughter has no such feelings. I hope that her views are the wave of the future and not my own residual feelings.
I would like to know what other people think of the advantages of staying at home with children and also the disadvantages and difficulties. I would like to make a kind of list of these, but I would like to hear from other people first. So please don't hesitate to let me know what you think. Very much obliged in advance.
P.S. There are so many wonderful blogs written by stay at home mothers and I hope they are both inspiring and known to young women with children who are making decisions about whether to work or not.