Nowadays, married women are not relegated to the role of housewives; many pursue a career. “In 2008, 64% of women with children aged three to 17 years were in the labor force, and 39.6% were employed; In 2009, 70.3% of women with children aged three to 17 years worked, 43.1% of them were employed, most of them full time; In 2010, Among mothers with children aged three to 17 years, 77.1% were employed, two-thirds of them full time.” (Doak, par.1) The break-down of rigid gender roles and the increased participation of women in the workplace have given women more choices in how to improve their own lives and that of their families.
Nevertheless, working mothers are often subject to negative feedback, such as the claim that working mothers are being selfish or even harming their families! There are divergent viewpoints of working mothers, which leads to the question: “Do working mothers benefit families?” The reason why I am interested this issue is because I am a new mother with plans to pursue a career after I complete my studies.
Even though I am struggling on the decision of whether go to work or be a full-time mother, I know clearly that I have to face the reality of losing out on income if I choose to stay at home to take of my daughter. I believe this kind of reality is very common for majority families. Through many articles and media resources which I collected for this research question, I arrived at a conclusion that is working mothers and happy families are not contradictory but coexist.
Working mothers should not be criticized for deciding to pursue a career, especially, as long as they are able to balance between it and their responsibility towards their families and children. The reality is that working mothers are now a mainstay for their families, or say working mothers are benefit families.
First of all, mothers are employed because their families depend on them financially. “Numerous studies have demonstrated that simply doing two full-time jobs (parenting and waged work) is extraordinarily difficult for any individual and results in considerable stress and can result in degraded parenting and degraded relationships,”(par. 2) explains Professor de Vaus of La Trobe University, Australia.
This quote demonstrates that the traditional family model of the stay-at-home wife is not tenable anymore. Increased cost of living necessitates two-income earners. Author Stevenson states, “Most fathers felt that the mother’s work was beneficial and facilitated family life.
They talked about it enhancing the quality of their relationship together, and recognized the way in which work enabled their partner to develop and express different aspects of her identity. They also appreciated having help in supplementing the financial costs of raising a family.” (par. 8)
This statement shows that the fathers feel that having a partner work outside the home enhances their personal relationship and benefits the family. There is no doubt that many mothers want to stay at home with their children. However, the economic evidence is clear. Mothers have been entering the labor force in larger and larger numbers because they need to for the good of their families.
Another way working mothers benefit families is by being better life partners and strengthening their marriages. A recent study showed that “wives’ full-time employment is now associated with increased marital stability” (Coontz, par.14).
Also, having an educated female spouse may decrease the rate of divorce: “College graduates are more likely to have egalitarian ideas about sharing housework and breadwinning, and recent (as of 2007) research shows that egalitarian ideas and behaviors improve marital satisfaction for both men and women.” (Coontz, par.13)
Many studies show that men now want a wife who is at a similar educational or occupational level: “… as the wife worked more, the husband’s view of the quality of his marriage actually improved” (Coontz, par17.).
According to Professor de Vaus in the Journal of Family Studies, They see the arrangement as fair, not because each partner is contributing in the same way, but because they both need the contribution of the other. The mutual interdependence rather than sameness is what enables these wives to regard the arrangements as equitable” (de Vaus, par.8). A family works better as a whole unit when both spouses are working to support the family as a common goal.
Moreover, in the online video clip of “Working Mothers @ Cisco”, Aileen who has two kids said that “I couldn’t imagine myself with a partner who chose to stay at home and who didn’t have a life outside our family. For starters, what would we talk about? … [It’s] good for the family because we can sit down together and plan financially for the future because we have two incomes to work with” (Cscopr). Both anecdotal evidence and research indicate that having a working mother increases the level of marital stability.
Lastly, working mothers provide children with positive role model. Working mothers understand that the sacrifices implicit working outside of the home, while at times, feeling that sometimes their employment could have a negative impact: “They could also feel that their children sometimes resented them working if it cut into times when the children wanted to be with their mother.” (Luscombe, par.4)
On the other hand, mothers also understand that working outside does have benefits for their children as well. According to Amelia Hill, a social affairs correspondent for the Guardian, “The majority of mothers feel no guilt about leaving their children to go out to work and believe their working life has improved since having children.” (par.6)
In fact, children whose mothers work feel proud of them. In the article “Career Mum Balancing Act,” the author Baker-Dowdell points out “[My daughter] said, ‘Mummy, I want to be like you when I grow up, I want to go to work’. I was really touched and I could see that my going to work is a positive influence on her.” (par.5). Baker-Dowdell also talks about how the mother’s work benefited their children.
They felt that it enhanced the quality of mother-child relationships, helped their children to develop useful skills, and provided them with a positive role model: “I’ve learnt negotiation skills and I have taught my children negotiation skills and they use it effectively.”(par.7)
In the online video “The Effect of Working Moms on Their Kids,” Dr. Sylvia Gearing points out that the working mothers give their children a great sense of independence, good role models, and the solid reality that women work in society. Best of all, they show their children that mommy has a strong sense of self-esteem.
Gender equality has been the debate of many scholars and organizations and as a result, the idea has been embraced by the society. However, it is clear that not many people have strategized on how to deal with situation and the challenges that comes with it. Research has shown that getting involved in both parenting and paid work as full time jobs is not easy for any individual.
As a matter of fact, in some cases it has been seen not be a solution to the needs in the family but as a source of another problem. That is, it has been recorded to cause stress as well as influencing negative relationships and parenting process. It is important to note the way mothers cope with this situation is influenced by many factors. For example, the nature of the job and the structure of the family are some of the factors that influence the relationship of working mothers and their children.
The structure of the family may contribute largely in that, in case the family is extended and the mother is expected to take care of the elderly, it would mean more responsibilities for the mothers. In addition, the number of children and their age may make the situation more complex. Many and young children may make the mother/ woman be unable to balance between paid work and parenting (Doak 1).
Looking at the other side of the story, it is clear that working mothers do not benefit their families. In fact, the situation results to a less bonded family. Take for example those careers that are very involving. In such a case, the mothers are sometimes required to work overtime or even operate away from their families in cases where they go on business trips.
The family is forced to do without a mother. Although many women argue that the nannies fill in the gap carrying out the responsibilities and duties that come with motherhood, it is evident that they can never fill in the gap of a mother. There are those things that nannies can attend to and those they cannot. The mutual relationship between a mother and her family is unique and can only be achieved in the presence of a mother (Venker 178).
It is important to note that women are human beings too, and the environment that they work in is not stress free. Moreover, they are not favored because they are women and have families to take care of. They usually undertake their duties just like anybody else. They face the job challenges as everybody would. In such a situation, it is their families that suffer.
Women are created differently from men and it is usually difficult to separate issues of the work place with family matters. If they had a terrible day in the office, there is a likelihood of carrying over the same in the house. The husband and the children experience a cold relationship from their mother and if it continues for a long time it may ruin relationship in the family.
Balancing between work and family sometimes may be difficult. Take a situation in which a mother had a very busy day at the work place. When she gets home she is extremely tired to attend to her family. Women are humans, right? And when they get home tired like everybody would behave, they don’t have much to say or do with their families. They seek to rest ready to face the next day. If this goes on for a period of time then it can affect the relationship between the mother and the family negatively (De Vaus 120).
Family may not only include the husband and the children but it may also include the elderly parents and the parents-in-law. It is the responsibility of the woman of the house to take care of them. It becomes worse when even when the organizations do not recognize that working mothers need to be assisted on how to manage paid work and taking care of the elder people.
This is because in the past there has been systems put in place to help working mothers manage both tasks but in this case there is no system put in place to help women manage their elderly parents and their jobs as well. It becomes more challenging when the family has to relocate due to job demands.
In many cases the family consisting of mother, father and children is the one that becomes mobile while the elderly are left behind. The geographical distance created simply because women are attending the paid work is not beneficial to the larger family, considering that the elderly are sensitive just like the young children.
It is natural for many mothers with young children to feel ambivalent about working for obvious reasons. Despite debate and opposing public opinions for working mothers, mothers have entered the labor force freely and in ever greater numbers because they and their families have been made better off by that choice.
These benefits are fairly obvious, such as the incomes earned by women enhance the financial security of their families; the quality and stability of marriages are improved; and children are provided with better role models by working mothers. Through my research, I have more confidence to work outside of the home because I know that my sacrifice will ultimately benefit my family and my relationship with my husband and my daughter. For myself, I hope to feel satisfaction and self-fulfillment from my career.
Baker-Dowdell, Johanna. “Career Mum Balancing Act.” Insightful writers. Informed readers. Suite 101.com. 3 Sep. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2011
Coontz, Stephanie. “Career Women Do Not Make Bad Wives.” The Boston Globe (18 Feb. 2007). Rpt. in Working Women. Ed. Christina Fisanick.
Cscopr “Working Mothers @ Cisco.” YouTube. Online Video Clip. 8 June 2009. Web. 21 Feb.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHGMhchqIuM
Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
De Vaus, David. “Balancing family work and paid work: Gender- based equality in the new democratic family.” Journal of Family Studies 15.2 (2009): 118-121. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Doak J, Melissa. “Child Care and Elder Care.” Women in American Society. 2010 ed. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Information Plus Reference Series. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Doak J, Melissa. “Family and Work Arrangements for Mothers and Children.” Women in American Society. 2010 ed. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Information Plus Reference Series. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Hill, Amelia. “We’re doing fine, say working mums: Ninety per cent believe that their careers make them good role models.” THE OBSERVER (England), 28 Sep. 2008, Eastern Ed. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Luscombe, Belinda. “Working Moms’ Kids Turn Out Fine, 50 Years of Research Says.” Healthland. TIME. 18 Oct. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Stevenson, Jennifer. “Moms should reject the guilt that comes with a paycheck.” Insightful writers. Informed readers. Suite 101.com. 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Suzanne Venker. 7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don’t Mix. Spence Publishing Company, 2008.