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A working parent is a father or a mother who engages in a work life, aside from their duties as a childcare provider, and home maker. There are many structures within families including single, working mothers or single, working fathers. There are also married parents who are dual-earners, in which both parents provide income to support their family or their own needs. These family structures sometimes raise much concern about gender inequalities. Within the institution of gender, there are expected gender roles that society pins on both mothers and fathers that are reflected by events and expectations in the home and at work.
Television in the 1950’s and 1960’s gave people a one track structure of how families should function. Men went to work to earn money to pay bills and support his wife and family, and women were expected to stay home as housewives and child care givers.
Motherhood penalty and fatherhood bonus
Although women may be easier to employ than men are due to their salary demands, women also face a 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.
The involvement of women in paid work varies and had varied by historical period, geographical region and social class. From the late 19th century to the 1970s, married women in some Western countries were restricted from working outside the home through marriage bars. For instance, in the Netherlands, the marriage bar was removed in 1957, and in Ireland it was removed in 1973. In some European countries, married women could not work without the consent of their husbands until a few decades ago, for example in France until 1965 and in Spain until 1975. After second wave of feminism made it possible for more women to be present in the work place, many mothers took advantage; 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". Women often experience working a "double day" or "second shift" when they go to a wage-earning job and then come home. When women 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.
In Europe, Ireland and the Netherlands have some of the strongest housewife traditions. In the early 1980s, the Commission of the European Communities report Women in the European Community, found that the Netherlands and Ireland had the lowest labour participation of married women and the most public disapproval of it. In the Netherlands, from the 1990s onwards, the numbers of women entering the workplace have increased, but with most of the women working part time. According to The Economist, in the Netherlands, fewer men had to fight in the World Wars of the 20th century, and so Dutch women did not experience working for pay at rates women in other countries did. The wealth of the country, coupled with the fact that "[Dutch] politics was dominated by Christian values until the 1980s" meant that Dutch women were slower to enter into the workforce. In contrast to the mid-20th century Western Europe, Communist countries such as USSR and Mainland China encouraged married women to keep working after they had given birth. In the US, 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.
As more countries joined the European Union, and become subject to its directives, the policies regarding women's labour rights have improved throughout Europe. Important directives include the Employment Equality Framework Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive, the Parental Leave Directive and the Directive 2002/73/EC - equal treatment of 23 September 2002 amending Council Directive 76/207/EEC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions.
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."
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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