Pew Research Center’s “Fewer Mothers Prefer Full-Time Work”

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Hello, hello!

We’ve been on vacation for the better part of two weeks — plenty of time to think, little time to write. Next time I plan to go on hiatus, I will let you know.

The first order of business is to flag a report (with a nod to Entrepreneur Daily and USA Today) published by the Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends Project titled Fewer Mothers Prefer Full-Time Work.

I wasn't all that surprised to learn that 6 in 10 full-time working moms would prefer to work part-time; however, I was intrigued to learn that the divide between working and at-home moms has widened.

In the 1997 study, about 4 in 10 of all mothers (38% of at-home moms; 39% of working moms) believed that an increase in working mothers was a negative societal trend. However, by 2007, 44% (15% increase) of the at-home mothers saw this as a negative; only 34% (an 8% decrease) of the working mothers concurred.


Why is this the key finding?

Because the digging in our heels around our work/life decisions suggests that our society's oft-repeated mantra of “live and let live” notwithstanding, mothers are becoming more, not less, judgmental of one another, and that sibling rivalry continues on the rise.

Which makes me quite sad.

Happily, there are mothers who shun the rivalry, embracing systergy in its stead.

While vacationing in Jackson Hole last week, I spoke with three such mothers, Stacey, Heather and Jane. Stacey I have known for many years; I've just become acquainted with Jane and Heather.

Photograph courtesy of Melanie Mauer, a woman who is the picture of systergy

All of us have children under twelve. Each of us has a college degree, two have advanced degrees. Two of us work full-time; two are at-home.

Given our respective choices, and the trend identified by the Pew study, I suppose our interchange could have deteriorated into intransigent finger-pointing.

But it didn't.

On the contrary.

We asked one another how we’d made our decisions; we spoke of the trade-offs, sharing our struggles, validating and encouraging one another.

Does this kind of conversation, one in which we experience systergy, help us to rethink our competence, and bolster the belief that we can be the hero of our story?

I can’t speak for others.

But the answer for me is — Yes, and again, yes.


Can you think of a time when you have been critical of others’ choices related to how they were balancing motherhood and career? Any thoughts as to why you were critical?

My husband and I waited several years (10 to be exact) before having children. There were some who criticized us, but truth be told, I was critical of women who chose to have children immediately. In retrospect, my criticisms were a manifestation of my own insecurity: if I could believe others were wrong, then I could be definitively right.

Can you think of a conversation in which you encouraged and validated others? How did you feel? How do you move from sibling rivalry to systergy?

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