Should Moms Work or Stay at Home?

Annie Holmquist | October 18, 2017 | 13,354

Should Moms Work or Stay at Home?

A while back, I asked what seemed to be a taboo question, namely, “Do men secretly want stay-at-home wives?” According to the responses and other polling, the answer to that question leans strongly in the affirmative direction.

Other data suggest that women would answer a question about whether they secretly wanted to be stay-at-home wives a little differently… that is, until they have children. At that point, 56 percent of women prefer to become stay-at-home moms.

But what about the children themselves? If we were to ask them if they prefer a stay-at-home parent (often the mother) to a working parent, which would they choose?

Data on this question is hard to come by due to the fact that most researchers aren’t out surveying the opinions of kids. But other factors seem to indicate that, if asked, children would choose having a stay-at-home mom over a working one, primarily due to the improvement in well-being it brings to their lives.

The first area in which this occurs is mental health. According to recent statements by British child protection activist and founder of Childline, Esther Rantzen, “The decline of the housewife and the addiction to being busy is leading a generation of children to depression and anxiety.” Rantzen’s work with troubled children has led her to realize that parental absence deprives children of someone with whom they can discuss their troubles, leaving children increasingly anxious, unhappy, and suicidal.

Second, research suggests that children might enjoy a better school experience if they have a mother who stays at home. According to a study out of Stanford, children whose parents stayed home for a while due to the birth of a younger sibling saw a statistically significant boost in academic grades. 

But stay-at-home parents don’t only offer benefits to older children. In late 2016, the Economic Journal released a study that found “a young child’s cognitive and social skills are improved considerably by spending more time with their mother between the ages of three and seven.”

Last, but not least, is the testimony of high school seniors. According to Dr. David Cotter and Joanna Pepin, high school students are signaling a decided shift in attitudes on traditional gender roles. In the last 20 years, an increasing number of students agree that it works better if a father is the achiever outside the home and the mother primarily focuses on taking care of the family and home (see chart). Those observing this switch suggest this traditional arrangement is growing in popularity because it enables more family time, puts less pressure on the family, and provides more opportunities for kids to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Youth Attitudes about Gender in Families

Today’s culture emphasizes the  rights of females to pursue a career, fend for themselves, and break through traditional norms – the proverbial glass ceilings – that have held them back in the past. In doing so, we are praised for “empowering” women to reach their full potential.

But is this “empowerment” actually hurting other, more vulnerable individuals in the process: children?

It’s a question all parents should consider.

[Image Credit: Flickr-Dave Parker (CC BY 2.0)]



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