Women, Work and Motherhood

Apr 13, 2012

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen’s comment this week about Ann Romney’s lack of work experience has put the “mommy wars” back in the news. The Pew Research Center has done many surveys in recent years that explore public attitudes about issues related to women, work and motherhood. What follows is a summary of our key findings.

In many ways a public consensus has developed around the changing role of women in society. Nearly three quarters of American adults (73%) say the trend toward more women in the workforce has been a change for the better. And 62% of adults believe that a marriage in which the husband and wife both have jobs and both take care of the house and children provides a more satisfying life than one in which the husband provides for the family and the wife takes care of the home.

At the same time, when motherhood and children are brought into the debate, there is an ongoing ambivalence about what is best for society. Only 21% of adults say the trend toward more mothers of young children working outside the home has been a good thing for society. Some 37% say this has been a bad thing, and 38% say it hasn’t made much difference. And women themselves report feeling stressed about balancing work and family. When asked in general how they feel about their time, 40% of working moms said they always feel rushed. This compares with 24% of the general public and 26% of stay-at-home moms. For their part working fathers don’t seem to feel nearly as harried as working mothers. Only 25% of working dads said they always feel rushed.

Read the full report, Women, Work and Motherhood, on the Pew Social & Demographic Trends website.

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