A working parent is a father or a mother who engages in a work life, aside from their duties as a childcare provider. There are many structures within families including, but not limited to, single, working mothers or single, working fathers. There are also married parents who are dual-earners, in which both parents provide income. Within these family structures, there is much concern about gender inequalities. Within the institution of gender, there are expected gender roles that society pins on both mothers and fathers that reflect in the home and at work.
Motherhood penalty and fatherhood bonus
On a daily basis, parents of each gender are trying to find employment in the face of the current economic crisis. Although women are easier to employ than men are due to their salary demands, women also face the challenge of defending their rights as mothers in a working environment. Men have the potential of earning high regards for being a working father. Hegemonic masculinity plays a role in determining a man’s bonus. If he is white, middle class and has a stable home life with a wife and children, he is viewed as the most appropriately masculine man available to earn a raise. As such, more fathers are also offered paid paternity leave. While working mothers already earn less than women who are childless, they face other obstacles on the job. They have to find secret locations to pump breast milk while at work. They have to explain to their employers reasons for being absent, late or working from home when their child is sick or has a snow day.
While a wave of feminism made it possible for more women to be present in the work place, many mothers took advantage of that new found independence raising the percentage of working mothers to almost 50% in 2009. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the increase of mothers in the workforce, with children under the age of 18, has risen to 70.6% in 2011. Mothers with younger children are less likely to work than those with older children. Although mothers have flourished in paid labor environments, they still face gender inequalities that affect their ability to maintain a healthy home-work life. The added pressures of working mothers rests on the stereotypical, gendered assumptions that women are the prime care takers of children, which is a fact that is often reflected in privileges and advantages in the work place between men and women. One disadvantage that the working mothers face is a wage gap, sometimes referred to as a "motherhood penalty". When womean are hired, they are assumed to have more home life responsibilities that can interfere with their ability to do well at work. Relating to their male counterparts, if women want to provide more for their family, they are to take on the masculine work ethic. That is, be more aggressive, and put work before your family. An increase in work demands may alleviate the burden of economic decreases; however, this takes away the time needed to raise a family. With 66% of married women in a dual-income family, that percentage illustrates that, although both parents are economic providers for their family, the women take on both work and family responsibilities due to society’s gender roles. Research shows that, consistent with utility maximization theory, women are not merely opting out of the workforce, but rather are accurately assessing the potential opportunity and direct labor market costs of their exit decisions, and are making workforce exit decisions based on measurable costs and benefits.
Communist countries in the early and middle 20th century such as USSR and China Mainland encourage married women to keep working after they had given birth. There are very few housewives in Communist countries, until the Free Market Economic reform in 1990s during which there was a resurgence of housewife phenomenon. In the 1950s, in the Western World, women quit their jobs after giving birth; to be a housewife was a common phenomenon. There were only 11% married women who kept working after they had given birth in USA. After the feminist movement (accompanied by the civil rights movement against the racial discrimination and The Vietnam War), there were 50% married women who kept working after they given birth in 1978 in the USA; in 1997, the number was 61%. Increased numbers of housewives happened in the Bush era in the 2000s. After the 2008 financial crisis, because of a decrease in family income, women kept working to help their families, there were 69% Married women who kept working after they had given birth in 2009 in the USA.
The battle between working mothers and stay-at-home moms has been called the "mommy wars". Arguments center around the most effective use of one's time in raising children. Leslie Morgan Steiner wrote that, as women struggle to come to terms with their own choices in parenting against society’s standards, they engage in this warfare that does nothing to promote self-acceptance, acceptance of others or balance within their individual lives. There is an argument that the line drawn in this war is based on finances. Mothers who can afford to pay for childcare and can work for pleasure find themselves pitted against mothers who have to work because of their own economic situation. Stay-at-home mothers who can stay at home without financial repercussions are also a part of the battle. Money, choice, and workforce discrimination are all cited as factors.
The Harvard Business Review blog and Pew Research Center have both reported the results of a study that suggests that mothers are the "sole or primary source of income" in approximately 40 percent of U.S. households with children. The equivalent statistic in 1960 was 11 percent.
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