More Married Mamas Dropping Out of the Workforce

Here's a little newsflash for ya: As a working mom, I'm in the majority—but it's a shrinking majority. Why are so many women dropping out of the workforce?

Here’s a little newsflash for ya: As a working mom, I’m in the majority—but it’s a shrinking majority. According to this op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times, the numbers of working moms of infants (like Tela and me) and preschoolers (like Cara and Sara) are dropping significantly.

The author of the piece, Linda Hirshman, suggests that a major reason for this social shift is “in the last decade … the job of motherhood has ramped up. …The pressure to increase mothering is enormous.”

Man, is it ever. I’ve been reading the British working-mum novel I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, and it’s really reminding me just how much is expected of us — not to mention what we expect of ourselves!

Not only do I want to be a rock star at work, I need to be the best mom I can be to my daughter. Plus, of course, I should be a loving, supportive wife; a reliable (but still fun!) friend; an attentive, thoughtful daughter; the list goes on and on.

Similar to the author of The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? (which I discussed last week), Hirshman sees the numbers of married mothers dropping out of the workforce as a real concern:

Should we care if women leave the work force? Yes, because participation in public life allows women to use their talents and to powerfully affect society. And once they leave, they usually cannot regain the income or status they had.

Her proposed solution—at least in the short term—is to change the tax code, making it more advantageous for married couples to file as individual earners. She believes this would alleviate the pressure on married moms to opt out because taxes make their earnings negligible (or even a liability).

I guess that could help … but I feel like Hirshman too quickly dismisses other solutions, such as workplace reforms (flexibility and paid leave) and attitude adjustments about housework/childcare responsibilities.

Between employers, government, and media, a lot more can be done to offer moms choices. It’s going to take more than a tax code change to help create those options.

Here's a little newsflash for ya: As a working mom, I'm in the majority—but it's a shrinking majority. Why are so many women dropping out of the workforce?

3 thoughts on “More Married Mamas Dropping Out of the Workforce

  1. Modern Mama says:

    I am also reading that novel! I am enjoying it a lot and relating quite a bit, though in some ways it makes me appreciate my situation. I am able to proudly talk about my kids at work and not expected to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice.
    As far as workplace reform, a huge advantage would be more support for child care. My life would be so much different if I had a day care on site, or contracted with a day care and reserved spots. Sigh. Wouldn’t that be nice.

  2. I don’t feel this enormous pressure to be the best mom ever. I know I’m a good mom to my kids, and that’s what counts. Here’s my take why so many moms are leaving their professions… the line where work ends and personal life begins is blurred. 9 to 5 is a thing of the past. Professional business executives are always connected via email or blackberries to their jobs. Even though these things are supposed to make life more convenient, and allow more flexibility to work remotely, I think it also forces us to work faster, harder, and longer. I think these moms just get to a point where they’re in multi-tasking overload, handling business, kids, and personal life at the speed of light and it gets to a point where they decide to stop and focus on what matters the most–family. They crave a simpler life.

  3. Oh, and another theory… I think more moms are becoming entrepreneurs or “momtrepreneurs” as they say.

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