After completing four years of college, achieving a bachelor’s degree and starting her career path as a social worker, 31-year-old Lauryn Williams chose to become a full-time mother instead.
Williams has been a stay-at-home mother for almost four years now. She spends every waking moment nurturing and caring for her two young children, 3-year-old Austin and 4-year-old Ashley. Williams says she made the decision because her salary was not sufficient enough to pay for childcare costs.
“Childcare these days is thousands of dollars and when your salary just isn’t that much it honestly doesn’t make any sense to pay for it,” Williams said.
According to the data presented in the 2012 Pew Research survey, “After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay-at-home Mothers,”Williams is just one of an expanding group of women deciding to stay home to care for their children. The survey, which was conducted by the Pew Research Analysis of Current Populations, includes interviews from more than 90,000 households.
According to the survey, 29 percent of moms chose to become full-time mothers in 2012; a surprising increase compared to 23 percent in 1999, a record low number.
The national Working Mother Report, “What Moms Choose,” which includes the opinions and concerns of nearly 3,700 mothers across the nation, reports 35 percent of stay-at-home moms consider the cost of childcare a factor in their decision to stay home.
Data based on Womens Institute, “Working Mothers Report.”
According to the “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care 2013 report” in 2010 the cost of putting two kids in childcare was greater than the median annual rent payment in every state across the US. In California, day care facilities can cost up to $1,000 a month.
Moms of the M.O.M.S Club San Diego Carmel Mountain Ranch talk about their experience as stay-at-home mothers.
M.O.M.S Club of San Diego Carmel Mountain Ranch is a group of educated women who support each other through the daily obstacles of motherhood. Although they gather for social activities and play dates with their children, their bond extends well beyond motherhood. They are a support system and resource system to the aspiring women who make up their organization.
Brittany Keegan, president of M.O.M.S Club El Cajon also struggles with the complex decision of motherhood versus career. Keegan, a 22-year-old single mother of one, will graduate from the University of Ashford with an online degree in child development in May. Although she says she is excited to begin her career, she is extremely worried that childcare costs will outweigh her future salary earnings.
“It’s pretty ironic, if I get a job at preschool, I will be working taking care of children just to pay for my child to be watched by someone else. When you think of it that way, it honestly feels pointless and frustrating to say the least.”
Research from Pew and the Working Mothers Institute reveals demographic factors such as age, marital status and education have a large influence on a mother’s decision and financial ability to abstain from work.
Mothers returning to work
Although Pew research reveals women are more educated than ever, The Working Mothers Report states 43 percent of highly qualified working mothers leave the workforce at some point on an average of two years.
San Diego State University Economics Professor Enrico Marcelli says although women are entering college and the workforce in greater proportions compared to the past, people in the US and around the world are taught from a very young age that care taking is primarily a woman’s job.
“The influence from previous generations,such as parents and grandparents can shape a woman’s mind and gender expectations the most, more than media or social networks,” Marcelli said.
Although the Working Mothers Report reveals most women desire to stay home while children are young, employers are reluctant to hire applicants with years of employment gap history.
San Diego State University Women’s Studies Professor and mother Doreen Mattingly says, though it may seem as if society values mothers, employee policies such as strict schedules, unpaid maternity leave, and low wages are contradictory.
“The government doesn’t have much control when it comes to how a company chooses to hire their workers,” said Mattingly. “And being a mother is always a red flag when it comes down to it.”
After staying home with her children for four years, Williams says she would be more than happy to return to the career she worked so hard to achieve. Unfortunately for Williams and many other stay-at-home mothers, they now face a new hurdle—the battle of re-employment.
According to the Working Mother Report, women who take years off from work will experience difficulties when looking for career-oriented work. Like any applicant, gaps in employment history can negatively affect the chance of being hired; part-time work then becomes an appealing alternative.
“I love my children and I wouldn’t trade the experience of being with them everyday, especially so young, for anything,” Williams said. “But realistically I probably would have thought a little more in depth if I knew it was going to be this hard trying to go back to work.”
According to Pew, three of four career-oriented women would like to work full-time again after their children are of school age. Fortunately, Mattingly says the future is promising for mothers who want to return to the workplace because traditional stereotypes are beginning to change.
“As fathers begin to play a bigger role in the caretaking of their children, policies have become less oblivious to the juggling act of being a parent and having a career,” Mattingly said.