Do most moms prefer part-time work?

Jennifer Pinarski looks at some of the findings in the latest research on stay-at-home parenting.

SAHM-August2013-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

Yesterday, GlobalTV revealed the results of a 15-year study conducted by Pew Research about the work preferences of American men and women. The study, started back in 1997, asked the same question year after year: “Considering everything, what would be the ideal situation for you — working full-time, working part-time, or not working at all outside the home?”

Pew researchers found that working part-time would be the top choice for nearly half of American women with at least one child under 18, with the results varying little over the course of the study. For example, in 1997, 44 percent of moms said that working part-time would be ideal, compared to 50 percent in 2007 and 47 percent in 2012.

Out of the mothers who work full-time, 44 percent said they’d rather work part-time and 9 percent said they’d rather not work at all. Only 46 percent said their current situation is ideal.

This strikes me as a “the grass is always greener” situation. Mothers who are at home with their children want to work. Moms who work full-time don’t want to. I’ve done all three and admit that working part-time is the most difficult. I don’t feel like an efficient employee nor an organized mother. On the days I work from home, my worlds collide and I’m an inefficient, disorganized mother and employee. At least by working full-time, I was always able to focus on the task at hand, whether it was performing for my bosses or parenting my children. If you were to ask me right now what my ideal situation would be, my answer would be I’d rather not work and stay home with my children. (It’s true, despite my kvetching, I truly love being a SAHM).

One of the more interesting results of the study is where researchers asked the general public what they thought mothers should do. Only 16 percent of Americans felt it was best for young children to have mothers who work outside the home. On the surface this might look like the American Dream, but it reminds me of a blog post Elissa Freeman shared on Twitter earlier this week by The Broad Side writer Rebekah Kuschmider. Titled “Too Many Women Can’t Opt Out“, Kuschminder talks about what led her to become a SAHM, but reminds people that not every woman can do that because, simply put, their families would starve.

But to me, there are two additional reasons why too many many women can’t opt out. The first one is the decidedly unsexy loss of the tax base from the incomes of women who opt to stay home. Much of the comforts we enjoy in Canada, such as subsidized daycare expenses and government funded health care and maternity leaves come from income taxes paid by working women. But imagine if female lawyers, doctors, astronauts and teachers all opted out? If our chefs, politicians, farmers and firefighters all left the workforce, our sons and daughters would lose these important role models.

Read more: Why stay-at-home moms need life insurance >

So as you head to work or playgroup today, know the job that you’re doing right now is the most important. And that the grass certainly isn’t always greener on the other side.

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