Working Moms: How We Think About Work and Mothering Our Children

By on Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A new study in Gender and Society examines how working mothers – both those who are married and those raising children alone – look at their views on working and mothering. Being a working mother with a toddler and a stepmom (now with kids in their twenties – it is way easier than carpool, slightly scarier than seeing them go to middle school, and more gratifying), I was of course, interested to see what they found out.

Only yesterday, I got together with another friend who is a PR consultant who like me, works full-time, and we talked about balancing the needs of our work lives and families – and how we never want to send our children the message that work is all-consuming or more important than they are. We traded tips on balancing work and family, and it was an encouraging conversation.

The study results confirmed what many would expect – that most working mothers, single or married, find value, fulfillment, and meaning in paid work outside the home. While many would choose part-time work if available, most women in the study said that they would continue to work even if they did not need the income. Thanks to Mama PhD at InsideHigherEd for blogging about this study! She points out:
Alas, that Dr. Christopher’s findings did not suggest that the world is changing along with these women. Working mothers with male partners still did twice the housework and child care that their partners did; and, of course, the people caring for the children of employed mothers are themselves usually women, often mothers, and usually relatively low wage.
Mothers interviewed for the study justified employment in novel ways: They emphasize the benefits of employment for themselves – not only their children – and they reject the long work hours imposed by notions of being an ideal worker.
In her blog, Mama PhD mused over whether the study findings would be replicated if we lived in small nuclear families where child care could be shared and adult socialization be more likely to happen within the family. I think we would see a different definition of community – with people defining themselves as more linked to their families, rather than linking their identities to their workplaces. But we would still see value in work. We would just define how we are doing it differently.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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