Although the title of this post is directed at husbands, it really is a national issue. I know that as a younger women in the work place, I could be found guilty of being resentful of working mothers, yet I was raised by a single working mother. I definitely feel terrible now for ever feeling that way, especially as I come nearer to the time in my life where I may want to become a mother. I am horrified by the thought that I will not be considered as valuable in the work place as I was before having children. I do not desire to quit working and our family relies on my income.
For many families in the United States, working mothers are not a luxury, but a necessity. According to US Department of Labor “In 2015, 69.9 percent of mothers with children under age 18 were in the labor force, representing over a third (34.2 percent) of working women.” Yet, there are still deeply held beliefs that working mothers are less committed and less professionally competent than women without children. According to the Joint Economic Committee, women with children earn 3 percent less than women who do not have children, conversely men with children are viewed as more stable and committed to their work and earn 15 percent more than men without children. We continue to hold these beliefs even though there is a ton of evidence that more flexible arrangements for employees with children increases employee retention and these programs end up paying for themselves in the long run.
The US Department of Labor (2016) “The only national labor policy in the United States that offers leave opportunities is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, which provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job protected, unpaid leave. The United States is the only advanced economy that does not currently have some form of paid leave law in place at the federal level.”
So, what can we do as a society to support working mothers? We need changes in government policy and new workplace norms. First, we can offer paid leave to both new fathers and new mothers. This will increase the likelihood that a new mother stays in the workplace. It will allow men time to bond with their children and take away the gender bias associated with taking time off. We can also allow for flex time for working parents, as well as paid sick leave.
Another huge issue to tackle is the penalization women face when returning to the workplace. We need to create an environment in our workplace that supports working mothers coming back to work.
Right now, on average working mothers still spend twice as much time as fathers do caring for their children, as well as twice as much time doing household chores. I think that it is time up to continue to work towards getting rid of gender stereotypes and create a more equitable division of the household work.
This post is not meant to have any judgement as to whether your family decides that the best thing is to have both parents working or not, rather I hope to bring attention to a important issue facing over a third of women in the workplace.
(The photo used in this entry is my sister Katie who is a working mom and nephew Elliot)
I relied on data from the US Department of Labor and the Joint Economic Committee.