One of the reasons we started this blog was in response to the growing number of women, especially Christian women, who are working outside of the home full-time while their children are young. A new study from the Pew Forum explores the startling fact that women are the only or the primary income provider in 4 out of 10 homes in the United States. A healthy majority of these “breadwinner moms” are single (63 percent), which makes sense given their situation.
The alarming number is the married “breadwinner moms.” They number over 5 million. Their average combined income with their spouse is almost $80,000/year, while working women whose husbands are the primary breadwinners make a combined income of about $78,000. The breadwinner mom group is part of a larger trend toward married mothers working outside of the home. This broader cohort “has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011.”
I was struck by the high average income of the married double-income families. These are not families that need a second full-time income in order to eat or pay the mortgage on a modest home in most areas. These are upper middle class families who are earning to spend on “extras.”
But “extras” come with a price. Pew also polled people on the impact of women working outside the home. The majority of people believe that it has made the family able to live more comfortably at the price of healthy marriages and successful child rearing. In fact, only 16 percent of people thought that a full-time working mother with young children was an ideal situation.
The decision of a mother to work outside the home or raise her children at home is, then, an economic one. We here at E2S hope, however, that the value of children (and their attendant physiological, emotional, and spiritual well being) and the joy of a healthy marriage tended with time and affection weigh more in that economic calculus than the “extras.”
For most of us, raising our children full-time means economic sacrifice. It might mean only one car, a small house or apartment, and no annual vacations. But rather than being “chips and capacitors on the motherboard of the American GNP,” as blogger Tim Bayly described this week, we are choosing to be the wellspring of our homes. We are choosing to provide the priceless gift of ourselves to our little ones and husbands.
Image: The Laundry at Collise St. Simone by Eugene Louis Boudin