May 29, 2013

Breadwinner moms on the rise: Tell us your experience

FT_ExpressOur new report on “Breadwinner Moms” has been the focus of widespread media coverage and much discussion about its finding that mothers are now the sole or primary income provider in a record 40% of households with children.

“Breadwinner Moms” could just have aptly been called, as it was by Washington, D.C.’s daily newspaper, the Express, “The New Home Economics,” with its adaptation of the iconic picture of Rosie the Riveter who symbolized the women who took jobs in U.S. munitions plants during World War II to replace the men who had gone off to war.

What has fueled much of the conversation was what the Washington Post called the “sweeping change in traditional gender roles and family life over a few short decades” and how the public has viewed them. Some findings:

  • Fewer Americans in the survey believe that it’s better for a marriage if the husband earns more than the wife.
  • The public still differs about the right roles for mothers and fathers.
  • The public is conflicted about more mothers working outside the home, weighing the benefits of the mother’s earnings against the challenge of raising children and maintaining a successful marriage.

Use our comments section (below) to tell us your story: the experiences you’ve had, how they’ve compared to what we found in the study, what you think of the changes and what they mean for society.

See what some others around the country have said in interviews with their local news outlets:

  • Lisa Roher, who works at the Georgetown University Law Center, told the Washington Post that for her and her husband JJ, who has started a new business, their work/home lifestyle “has been ideal in many ways, because it has allowed JJ to pursue his dream of starting his own business and has allowed me to take jobs that require a lot of time and travel. I’m also glad our kids see an alternative way of handling careers, marriage and kids.”
  • “I always thought I’d be working — not just for the financial implications, but because I love what I do,” said Karen Potter, a Dana Point mother who works as an endodontist and is married to a lawyer. She told the Los Angeles Times that when her baby daughter grows up, “I hope and pray that she knows you can be there for your children and have a career that you’re passionate about.”
  • Allan Mohl, a family therapist in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. told Newsday that the men he sees in his practice have made a seamless transition to the changes in home and work life: “I think men are more accepting of the fact that their wives might make more,” he said. “There are actually some guys who enjoy staying at home and taking care of the kids. There’s been a big shift here.”
  • In Longview, Texas, Jessica Guire, a doctor of education, told local TV station KYTX, that she works “for online universities. I write curriculum, and work online classrooms” in addition to caring for three kids. She said she and her husband “kind of balance chores as best that we can, but majority of it does fall on his shoulders. I know that my paycheck pays the bills, and if I’m sick or just don’t want to work it’s just not an option.”

Topics: Gender, Work and Employment, Family Roles

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.