D. Dowd Muska


‘Breadwinner Moms’ -- Nothing to Celebrate

May 30, 2013

Believe that “women should return to their traditional roles in society”?

You troglodyte.

Fewer than 20 percent of Americans agree with you, if the poll cited in a new report by the Pew Research Center can be trusted.

“Breadwinner Moms” is a revelatory examination of opinions about women in the workforce, garnished with a digest of statistics on parental income in the 21st century. Most notable is the finding, generated by a 2012 survey, that 79 percent of adults don’t seek a return to time-honored gender identities. It’s disappointing that so many fail to grasp the personal and economic carnage wrought, in large part, by radical feminism and the Baby Boomer mantra “the heart wants what it wants.” Infidelity, divorce, custody battles, illegitimacy, welfare dependency, fatherlessness, latchkey kids, 55 million abortions, “startover dads,” STDs, rising female unhappiness, declining female life expectancies -- if women adopted the attitudes and behaviors of their 1950s forebears, would it be such a bad thing?

While it’s rare to encounter fans of June Cleaver in 2013, there is evidence that the populace isn’t entirely comfortable with androgynous matrimony. Pew’s respondents were asked whether women working outside the home has made it easier or harder for 1) families to earn enough, 2) marriages to succeed, and 3) “parents to raise children.” Two-thirds believe that the economics have been favorable. (It’s an egregiously dodgy notion, but let’s move on.) Exactly half think connubiality has suffered. Surprisingly, given the answers to the traditional-role query, 74 percent believe that it is harder to raise children when mom works.

An encouraging datum, but it doesn’t cohere with what’s happening. By decade, here are the percentages of mothers with children 17 and under who participated in the labor force:

1950                     21.6

1960                     30.4

1970                     42.4

1980                     56.6

1990                     66.7

2000                     72.9

2010                     71.3

The 330 percent spike between 1950 and 2010 was soundly bested by the metastasization of employed/job-searching mothers with children under six years of age:

1950                     13.6

1960                     20.2

1970                     32.2

1980                     46.8

1990                     58.2

2000                     65.3

2010                     64.2

Given the prevalence of women in the workforce, the days of ladies making minor contributions to domestic earnings are over. “Breadwinner Moms” found that a record 40 percent “of households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.” (The comparable figure for 1960 was 11 percent.) Roughly a third of the women are “married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands,” while two-thirds are widowed, separated, divorced, or never married. Looking at numbers from an earlier poll, the future is predictable: “The share of mothers saying that their ideal situation would be to work full time increased from 20 percent in 2007 to 32 percent in 2012. And the share saying they would prefer not to work at all fell from 29 percent to 20 percent.”

With all this female “empowerment,” who’s watching the kids? The U.S. Census Bureau found that 61 percent of American children younger than six are in a “regular child care arrangement” -- i.e., not with mom. Dads, siblings, and grandparents pitch in. But it’s not enough. A third of the tykes are looked after by low-wage nonrelatives. Terrifying, given the research of Brian C. Robertson, who considers day care “both a serious risk to children’s normal development and to their health.”

It’s taken decades of relentless propaganda to foster the idiotic presumption that young children aren’t penalized by absent mothers. But when three out of four adults concede that it’s more difficult to raise kids when mom works -- and 64 percent believe that the growth of single mothers is a “big problem” -- there’s an opportunity for further consciousness-raising.

Proposal: Respected voices in religion, business, academia, entertainment, sports, and government should mount a megabucks-backed campaign to explain the importance of raising children in financially stable, two-parent households with mothers dedicated to offering each offspring a decade and a half of full-time care. PR whizzes would need to craft a message that the effort isn’t a trip back to the barefoot-and-pregnant era, nor an attack on working women with no or grown children, but an overdue crusade to stop a widespread practice that serves as a force multiplier for most of our social ills.

Okay, it’s a politically incorrect fantasy, and the nation’s part-clueless, part-gutless elites would never go for it. But as America careens toward government insolvency, economic decline, and demographic doom, wishful thinking can be forgiven.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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