The 2001 census survey reported that among all mothers with children under six, 68 percent of women with college degrees and 75 percent of those with post-graduate degrees are in the labor force, compared with 65 percent of women with high school diplomas.
A recent Census report that employment had declined among mothers with infants received widespread attention. But a closer look reveals a different trend. The proportion of employed mothers aged 15 to 44 with children under the age of one declined from a peak of 59 percent in 1998 to 55 percent in 2002. That figure, however, remains vastly larger than the 31 percent who were in the labor force in 1976.
With 55% of new moms in the workforce, that leaves 45% of us as stay at home moms. We are almost equally divided in our choice of to work or not to work. To be fair, some of us do not have a choice, especially single moms. For those of us that do have a choice, there seems to be strong feelings in either direction.
If one were to walk around the playground, one might hear stay at home moms criticizing their working mom peers for “choosing career over their children”, while the working moms are criticizing the stay at home moms for “giving up their ambitions and income for an apron and a vacuum”. Both of these criticisms can’t be further from the truth.
In order for stay at home moms and working moms to get along, we must first understand each other and have empathy. Just because a mom is working doesn’t mean she has chosen her career over her kids, and just because a mom stays at home doesn’t mean she has abandoned her ambitions and dreams. The truth is many working moms wish they could make the change to stay at home, and many stay at home moms wish they could go to work.
So next time you are on the playground and one of your peers makes a snide remark about the mom down the street, stand up for her. Nobody knows a family’s situation but the family themselves; and what’s right for you is not necessarily right for someone else. When we criticize other women for their choice, we criticize ourselves as women.