Stay-at-home moms on the rise...but why?

A new report out of the US shows that the number of stay-at-home moms is increasing, but surprisingly it’s not by choice. Jennifer Pinarski wonders if the same is true for Canada.

Photo: 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.

The decision to quit my full-time job after the birth of our second child was driven less by finances than it was emotion. My husband and I crudely scribbled out a plan on a brown paper tablecloth (in crayon, no less) at a chain restaurant in Winnipeg while having dinner with our then-three-year-old son and two-month-old daughter. Four months later we fulfilled our dream of moving away from the city to a small town, and I was officially a stay-at-home mom. Opting out of a career that I’d gone to school for and worked on building for more than 10 years wasn’t an easy choice, but I felt in my heart that staying home to raise our children was the best thing for our entire family.

Read more: Are stay-at-home moms worth $100k+ a year?>

While many of the stay-at-home moms I’ve met over the years followed their hearts when choosing to leave their jobs to raise their kids, new research out of the US argues that a recent increase in the number of stay-at-home moms isn’t because women have chosen to opt-out—it’s because there is nowhere for them to opt-in to, and the cost of childcare makes employment a wash.

“After declining for several decades—bottoming out at 23% around the turn of the century—the share of stay-at-home mothers has risen in fits and starts over the past decade and a half, to 29% in 2012,” writes Drew Desilver on the Pew Research Fact Tank blog.

Pew researchers speculate that the downturn in the US economy—causing fewer employment opportunities and jobs with lower wages—as well as changes in cultural norms are behind the increase in SAHMs. Media hype claiming there’s an entire opt-out generation of moms choosing to leave high paying careers is just that—hype. The percentage of affluent SAHMs (with annual household incomes nearing $132,000) is actually quite small.

Read more: 5 ways to be a happier stay-at-home mom>

While I wasn’t able to dig up census data about how—or whether—the number of stay-at-home parents in Canada has changed over the years (at least in time for this blog post), an informal poll on social media echoes the findings of Pew Research.

  • Mine was related to economic reasons “officially,” but our plan was always for me to stay home and be with the kids. I would literally be working for maybe a couple bucks an hour. It’s not worth it. With five kids under five, there’s no way we could afford care. — Laurie P via Facebook
  • I have three kids but decided not to return to my job after my second. After calculating costs to have two kids in full-time daycare, I would be bringing home $7 per hour. That being said, being a SAHM has its financial challenges as well. — Dana M. via Facebook
  • I left my career as an admin assistant seven years ago after realizing that my salary would cover car payment, lunches, fuel and daycare with about $100 left over every month. It was a pretty easy choice for us as a family. — Kelly F. via Facebook
  • After having our first child, although both my husband and I thought it would be best for me to stay home full time, financially it wasn’t really an option. Now our second child is just over a year, and we decided it would be best for me to be home full time with the kids. — Amanda F. via Facebook

What were your reasons for becoming a stay-at-home mom? Were lack of employment opportunities and the cost of childcare barriers to returning to the work force? Tweet me @jenpinarski

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