AUTHOR: Hillebrand, Randall
PUBLISHED ON: March 20, 2003
PUBLISHED IN: Christian Living

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                      by Randall Hillebrand

    “Few would debate the almost mystical significance of the
mother-infant bond.  Research from many fields, including psychiatry,
child psychology, and studies of other animal species, has confirmed
our intuitive respect of the mother-infant bond.  Studies have
indicated that the first two years of a baby’s life are when that bond
forms.”  (White 27)

    Does the mother’s staying home with the child(ren) versus having
a full-time job help, hurt or have a neutral effect on the family?
This is the question that will be addressed in the following pages.
First though, a brief history of why women went into the job force
will be discussed as background to this paper.

Why Women Entered The Work Force

    During World War II, the men went overseas to fight, and the women
were called upon to work in the factories to keep America going.  Many
mothers left the home to come to the call of their country to serve.
These mothers were applauded by our culture and became the symbol of
patriotism of the highest order.  During this time the government set
up child care programs with federal funds and many companies set up
stores and hair-cutting salons right in the industrial plants for the
women’s convenience.  But then the war ended.  After the war was over,
the government and the private sector banded together in an enormous
propaganda campaign to get women to leave the work place and return to
the home.  The mother-child relationship and the support of the
husband and his career were stressed (Levine 65).  Up until World War
II, few women worked outside of the home, the great majority of those
being single.  The big boom of women (including married women) joining
the labor force was after World War II, starting in 1947. “Between
1947 and 1978, married women’s rate increased from 20 percent to 48
percent.”(Smith 4).  (Note: these percentages are of the total amount
of women joining the work force).
    As previously stated, the initial reason for mothers joining the
labor force was due to the war effort, which was very commendable.
This was a time in history when people needed to pull together and do
their part.  But then after the war, for whatever the reason, the
government and the private sector had a campaign to bring women, in
general, back to the home.  The majority of the women rebelled at this
as can be seen by the union grievances filed.  One study showed that
75 percent of the women wanted to continue working (Levine 66).  Why
was this the case?  Two main reasons are usually given.  First is that
of economics.  As Smith says in his book, The Subtle Revolution,
economists feel “that the perceived benefits of being in the labor
force have been increasing, the benefits of not participating have
been decreasing, or both.”(Smith 3-4).  Therefore, “the ‘opportunity
cost’ of staying at home all day has become too great for an
increasing proportion of women.”  So a choice needs to be made,
“unpaid” labor in the home versus paid labor outside (Smith 3-4).  The
second reason given for women going into the labor force is given by
Barbara Deckard when she said that women are “trapped in a situation
that provides little opportunity for intellectual growth or the
satisfactions of achievement.”
(Finsterbush/McKenna 127).  By this she was saying that a woman cannot
find these things if she is a housewife who has to watch after
children, so she leaves the home to find that fulfillment.  This
second reason is probably more of a recent thing (late 60’s, early
70’s till present), but could have its roots in the post World War II
    World War II was a special time in history that called for the
mothers of this nation to give a helping hand, but in the postwar
times, the mother was called back to a much more important task, that
of raising our nation’s children.  But the questions that need to be
asked are: (1) are economics really a reason for mothers to work
outside of the home, and (2) can a mother not find intellectual growth
or satisfaction of achievement by being a homemaker?  We will see.


      “Working women are stung and enraged by the guilt-provoking
suggestion that their careers are more important to them than their
children; that if they loved their babies more they’d be willing to
put their work aside.  And full-time mothers are angered and shaken by
the low esteem with which many career women regard them.” (Levine 64)

    On the economical side of things, a comparison needs to be made
between the homemaker and working-wife families.  If the two families
have the same amount of income per month, the homemaker’s family total
income will be higher than the working-wife’s family income.  This is
due to the fact that the working-wife spends at least 15 percent of
her paycheck, excluding income tax, on her work-related expenses.
This 15 percent is mainly spread across such things as transportation,
social security and clothing (Smith 161).  Not only does this 15
percent not cover income tax, but it also does not cover child care,
which can run between $40.00 to $120.00 or more per child per week.
If we take it a step further, her income should also be reduced
according to the amount of time that is taken away from the domestic
duties that the wife no longer has time to do, which are either sent
out for someone else to do or are not done at all.  It has also been
shown that in the homemaker’s family they spend as much as 50 percent
less on clothing, transportation, recreation, and retirement over that
of the working-wife’s family; and their basic food and shelter
expenditures are also slightly lower.  So there is at least a 30
percent difference in income between the two families, the homemaker’s
family having the higher savings (Smith 161).  In many cases, the
mother is going back to work so that the family will have more income
for specific bills, for future purchases, or usually just for a better
standard of living.  But is it worth it?  We will be looking at that a
little later.
    The other reason that mothers have left the home is for personal
growth and fulfillment.  They feel, according to Barbara Deckard, that
they have little opportunity for intellectual growth or the
satisfaction of achievement as stated earlier.  Her view says, “Why
should I be tied down to my family?  What if I have dreams or plans
for doing something more with my life?  Don’t you know that
childbearing is another link in the chain of men’s oppression over
women?  If I am with my children too much, I could damage them and
scar them for life.  Housework is no fun, it’s not creative nor
interesting, it’s boring and never-ending, so why should I stay home
doing these kinds of things, and those diapers !!?”  Well, she has a
point, they can be boring and tedious, but Phyllis Schlafly’s rebuttle
to this is that “Marriage and motherhood, of course, have their trials
and tribulations.  But what lifestyle doesn’t?  If you look upon your
home as a cage, you will find yourself just as imprisoned in an office
or a factory. The flight from the home is a flight from yourself, from
responsibility, from the nature of woman, in pursuit of false hopes
and fading illusions.” (Finsterbush/McKenna 115,120,124,125,127).  Why
can’t a woman feel fulfilled as a mother?  She can!  Then why do these
other women say that they are not fulfilled unless they are out of the
home and in the labor force?  Good question.  It could be for a number
of reasons.  Maybe at home the husband or children or both do not
appreciate the mother as much as she needs, so she looks elsewhere for
it.  But if this is the case, she had better beware, because she may
end up working somewhere where they don’t treat her any better, maybe
even worse.  Possibly she has low self-esteem and just does not feel
important.  If this is the case, as in the first example, she needs to
sit down with her family and work it out, instead of trying to find
relief somewhere else.  Maybe she just wants a change of pace.  This
too can be accomplished through part-time volunteer work, a home
business, etc.  What am I trying to say?  That if she has unmet needs
at home that are driving her to look for a job through which she
thinks she will find fulfillment, she is barking up the wrong tree.
She needs to get those needs met at home through her husband and
children.  Phyllis Schlafly makes this point in a more specific
example when she says, “If you complain about servitude to a husband,
servitude to a boss will be more intolerable.”(Finsterbush/Mckenna
120).  She goes on to say that “Everyone in the world has a boss of
some kind.  It is easier for most women to achieve a harmonious
working relationship with a husband than with a foreman, supervisor,
or office manager.”(Finsterbush/McKenna 120).  If the base problem is
not dealt with, the problem will reoccur somewhere else. But can the
home provide opportunity for intellectual growth and the satisfaction
of achievement?  Yes, if you truly desire it.  It may take a little
work, but it can be achieved.  Also, raising a healthy, productive and
happy family that adds to society is one of the greatest achievements
a woman can obtain.
    Then what about the effects of a working mother on the children
and family as a whole?


“The past twenty years have brought dramatic changes in the typical
American family.  During this period the overall female employment
rate rose by more than 50 percent (for married women with children
living with their spouses, the rate doubled).  Birth rates dropped by
40 percent, and divorce rates doubled.”  (Kamerman/Hayes 93)

No wonder that we see the divorce rate double in the working-wife
families, when there is an approximate increase of 16 percent in women
having affairs in this group over the homemaker families
(Norris/Miller 254).  This not only affects the home of the working
mother, but that of the homemaker whose husband participated in the
affair with her.  It can and usually does have long-reaching negative
effects.  It’s not a pretty picture!
    What about the children of the working mother?  If they are not
taken care of by relatives of the family, more than likely they go to
a day care. Day care centers can have a ratio of adults to infants and
toddlers anywhere from one to two in the better places, or as many as
ten or more infants to each staff member.  The common ratio is about
four to one.  One of the problems that arise is that the day care
industry is not a healthy one.  “The work is difficult, and in most
cases the pay is very low, and the training of the providers leaves
much to be desired.”(White 28).  What is most likely, is that the
child in the first two or three years will be exposed to numerous
primary caretakers.  Also infectious diseases, especially those
involving hearing ability and middle ear infections are three to four
times as prevalent than in the home (White 28).  Some would say that
it is good for the child to be in an environment like that because an
“increased sense of independence, well-being, and greater appreciation
for their parents have been found to be the attributes of many of the
offspring of two-career marriages.” (Swann-Rogak 6).  But I disagree.
During these first years a very important process is taking place in
the child’s life, that of socialization.  For children this is called
primary socialization in which the child develops language, individual
identity, the learning of self-control and cognitive skills.  Also,
the child learns the internalization of moral standards, appropriate
attitudes, motivations and a basic understanding of social roles
(Hagedorn 87).  During the most important time in a child’s life, when
the foundation of his personality, morals and attitudes are laid that
he will build off of for the rest of his life, we cannot just give him
to a complete stranger to mold.  These are the years that can either
make or break the child for the rest of his life. Can we leave this up
to someone else, even a relative?
    What about the working mother and the family in general.  As seen
above, adultery and divorces have risen due to women in the work
force, but what about other problems.  As I page through books for the
working mother I see chapter titles like these: “Succeeding with Your
Children,” “Getting Organized on the Home Front,” “Feeding the
Family,”  “New ways to Be Together,” “Having a Baby,” “Keeping Your
Marriage Strong” (Norris/Miller v); “How Do You Manage It All,” “I
Can’t Keep Up with It All,” “This House Is a Mess,” “Where Has Our
Togetherness Gone?,” “What if Something Happens When I’m Not There?,”
“I’m Tired All The Time,” “Where Does All My Money Go?,” “I Feel So
Guilty” (Skelsey); etc., etc., etc.!!  As can be seen  from the
titles, it is not easy on the family for the mother to go to work.
Many adjustments must be made, and even then it cannot be done
successfully.  The only real superwomen are in the comics, not in real
life.  This is the feeling of many professional women and can be seen
in the book Mothers Who Work by Jeanne Bodin and Bonnie Mitelman on
pages 52 through 58.  Many trade-offs had to be made.  Is it worth it?
From all of the negative effects on the children and family that have
been shown in this paper, it is very easy to see that it is not.  But
of course I cannot make that decision for you.  You need to decide!!


Bodin, Jeanne and Bonnie Mitelman.  Mothers Who Work.  New York:
Ballantine, 1983.

Finsterbusch, Kurt and George McKenna, eds.  Taking Sides.
    Guilford: The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc., l984.

Hagedorn, Robert, et al., eds.  Sociology.  Dubuque: Wm. C.
    Brown Company Publishers, l983.

Kamerman, Sheila B. and Cheryl D. Hayes, eds.  Families That Work:
    Children in a Changing World.  Washington
    D.C.: National Academy Press, l982.

Levine, Karen.  “Mother vs. Mother.”  Parents (June, l985): 63-67.

Norris, Gloria and Jo Ann Miller.  The Working Mother’s Complete
    Handbook.  New York: Plume, l984.

Skelsey, Alice.  The Working Mother’s Guide to Her Home, Her Family
    and Herself.  New York: Random House, l970.

Smith, Ralph E., ed.  The Subtle Revolution, Women at Work.
    Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, l979.

Swann-Rogak, Lisa.  “Careers.”  Baby Talk (April, l985): 6.

White, Burton L.  “Should You Stay Home With Your Baby?”
    American Baby (October, l985): 27-28, 30.

                                          , 1983.

Finsterbusch, Kurt and George McKenna, eds.  Taking Sides.
    Guilford: The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc., l984.

Hagedorn, Robert, et al., eds.  Sociology.  Dubuque: Wm. C.
    Brown Company Publishers, l983.

Kamerman, Sheila B. and Cheryl D. Hayes, eds.  Families That Work:
    Children in a Changing World.  Washington
    D.C.: National Academy Press, l982.

Levine, Karen.  “Mother vs. Mother.”  Parents (June, l985): 63-67.

Norris, Gloria and Jo Ann Miller.  The Working Mo

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