- Posted May 11, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Working Moms - How Difficult Is It?
The percentage of Moms working outside the home is nearing an all-time high. For many reasons, Moms have turned from the traditional role of being a housewife, keeping the home fires burning, and gone into the workforce.
With Sunday, being Mother's Day, has the role of motherhood become more difficult in today's world and in the aftermath of the economic meltdown?
The percentage of mothers in the workforce is nearing record highs, leading to more societal acceptance and childcare options, but mothers still face a 'mommy wage gap' and other challenges.
What's become clear in the weeks since Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life" is that the touchy, judgment-passing hostilities of the so-called mommy wars have not ceased to rankle moms of all stripes.
This latest chapter of the mommy wars – which many saw as a smokescreen for more pressing issues affecting working mothers today, such as comparatively low wages and the lack of quality, affordable child care – sees near-record-high shares of mothers in the workforce, some 70.6 percent.
It's been about 40 years since women, freshly liberated by the feminist movement, began entering the workforce in droves. Four decades later, has it gotten any easier?
Nonetheless, many things have changed dramatically for working mothers in the last 40 years. For starters, there are simply many more of them. In 1975 some 47 percent of mothers were in the labor force (defined as working or looking for work), according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number grew steadily in the '80s and '90s, peaking at almost 73 percent in 2000.
And as the number of women in the workforce swelled, so, too, did their contribution to family incomes. In 1970, a typical wife chipped in about one-quarter of her family's income, or 26.6 percent. By 2010, the median wife's contribution grew to 37.6 percent of her family's income. What's more, nearly 40 percent of working wives now out-earn their husbands, making them the primary breadwinners.
Of course, things haven't changed for some groups. By and large, black mothers and others from lower-income families have always worked, not because they were pathmakers but because they had to. The greatest change is observed in middle-class, mostly white mothers who elected to join the workforce.
Fathers are also doing more housework, about two hours on any given weekday, or 42 minutes more per day on average than in 1977, according to the Families and Work Institute.
Employer accommodations for working moms have also improved markedly since the 1970s. More employers are providing job-protected leave, flexible work schedules, on-site child care, and even breastfeeding rooms. Child-care options have also improved in the past 30 years, says Deirdre Johnston, a professor of communication at Hope College in Holland, Mich.
One of the greatest advances for working parents since the 1970s is the Family and Medical Leave Act. Signed into law under President Bill Clinton in 1993, the federal law requires em-ployers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for medical and family needs, including pregnancy, adoption, foster placement, or family illness. And employees can't be fired for requesting or taking leave.
The statistics are bruising: Mothers with comparable job experience are 44 percent less likely to be hired than women without children, according to a 2005 study from Cornell University. Even if they are hired, mothers' starting salaries are about $11,000 lower than that of a woman without children. And it gets worse. Mothers tend to earn less and less for each additional child they have, a phenomenon dubbed the "mommy wage gap."
For low-income working mothers, progress has been even slower, says Gloria Thomas, director of the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, and a single mother of two.
From the Cornfield, to all Moms whether working outside the home or carrying on with job at home, I wish you each a Happy Mother's Day!