The Pew Research Center survey, being released today, found that only 21 percent of working mothers with children younger than 18 viewed full-time work as the best arrangement, down from 32 percent in 1997. Sixty percent of the working mothers said a part-time job would be best, up from 48 percent 10 years ago. And 19 percent said not working at all would be ideal — roughly the same as in 1997.
The survey also found a shift in preferences among stay-at-home mothers. Only 16 percent of them said their ideal situation would be to work full time outside the home, down from 24 percent in 1997. Conversely, 48 percent now say that not working at all outside the home is the best arrangement, up from 39 percent who felt that way in 1997. . . Cary Funk, a Pew researcher on the survey, said the trend reflected women's latest thoughts on the ideal arrangement for their children.
Mothers who actually raise their children seem to be happier too. Today 33% fewer full-time moms want to be full-time workers outside the home than 10 years ago. Now 20% more full-time moms think they are doing what's best for their children than thought so in 1997. Almost half think that their being at home is best. (makes one wonder why the other half are at home, doesn't it?)
I can only guess at why opinions have changed so much. Maybe it's all the violence in schools, all the stupid internet videos of kids fighting, beating people, taking drugs, etc. maybe 9/11 changed the way we view families. Whatever the cause, opinions are changing. The economy doesn't help mothers realize their desires, however. As the article points out, the mothers' views don't reflect the reality.
According to the latest federal figures, 70.5 percent of American women with children younger than 18 work outside the home — including 60 percent of mothers with children younger than 3. And the newly emerging preference for part-time work doesn't mesh with current reality: Three-quarters of the working mothers have full-time jobs.
But, at least there seems to be a growing sense that children cannot raise themselves, and when others raise your kids, you may not like the way they turn out. And maybe, just maybe, there is a new generation of baby boomers' kids who missed having mom at home growing up, and don't want to cause their own children the same regret. And maybe people are starting to accept that men and women don't have to want the same things to lead worthwhile, productive lives.