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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Happy at Home

More moms are staying with the kids, at least part time

By Jocelyn Green
May 9, 2010

Tiffany Self was content as public relations director for her alma mater, Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash. But when she was hired as the new media relations director at Wheaton College near Chicago, she and her husband moved across the country for her “dream job.”

Once she had a baby in 2006, however, Self’s dreams looked a little different. The day after she returned to full-time work from maternity leave, a mumps outbreak started on campus that resulted in her being a part of the school’s critical response team, limiting her time at home for the next several weeks.

“I realized then that it would be difficult to work such a job and still be a key influence in my son’s life,” Self says.

Self’s story reflects a noticeable shift in work preferences among mothers across the nation. A 2007 study released by the Pew Research Center showed that since 1997 full-time work outside the home lost some of its appeal to mothers who have such jobs as well as mothers who didn’t.

Among working mothers with minor children, 21 percent said full-time work was ideal for them, down from the 32 percent who said this in 1997. A decade later, 60 percent (up from 48 percent) of working mothers said part-time work would be their ideal, and another 19 percent said they would prefer not working at all outside the home.

By the time her son Zachary was six months old, Self traded in her 90-minute roundtrip commute and high-intensity job to stay home with him and explore options for working part time from home.

While the transition from career woman to stay-at-home mom was a shock, Self says today she’s extremely satisfied, working part-time from home (5-15 hours per week) doing media relations.

A 2009 Pew Center study found that 80 percent of stay-at-home moms say they’re “very happy” or “pretty happy.” For moms with jobs, the number is 85 percent. Yet 62 percent of the employed mothers said they would prefer to work part-time. (So would more than a third of stay-at-home moms.)

Being happy as a mom comes down to fulfillment, says Jill Hart of Bellevue, Neb., founder of (Christian Work at Home Moms) and co-author of So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom: A Christian’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business.

“A woman can earn accolades in the workplace, but if that’s not where her heart is, she isn’t going to be happy,” says Hart, whose children are now 8 and 4 years old. “I used to bawl on the way to work every day. Now, I feel like I’m making a difference both in my work and in raising my kids myself.”

Hart suspects the downturn in the economy and a growing desire for better work-life balance both add to the appeal of working from home.

Another possible factor in women’s desire to be home more is that they are waiting significantly longer before having their first children than new moms of a generation ago, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year. The average age of first-time mothers in the United States jumped from 21.4 in 1970 to 25 in 2006, allowing women more time to experience full-time work before motherhood even enters the picture. The proportion of first births to women 35 and older has increased nearly eight times since 1970.

Charles Bazan, U.S. Assemblies of God missionary and director of Hope Family Services in Graham, Texas, calls the large-scale shift toward staying at home “a healthy gravitation toward better families.” One key benefit of a mom spending more time at home, he says, is that she can spend more time developing her children’s souls. 

“Moms have a greater ability to be in tune with their children and nurture their souls if they are around them more,” says Bazan, who counseled 100 families in the past year. “Can this happen with a working mom? Yes. Sometimes moms who work outside the home are better at listening and making solutions for their families than stay-at-home moms are.”

Mother of four Rebeca Dirks of Grundy Center, Iowa, worked part-time for six years as the marketing and foundation manager for a hospital.

“I loved my job,” she says. “But when we added baby number four, everything just got so stressful, and my husband, Jordan, and I were not being kind to each other.”

After much prayer and many sleepless nights, Dirks decided to stay home full time, despite the decrease in income. She remains a consultant for the hospital.

For Jennifer Hays of Waterloo, Iowa, finding the right work-life balance has changed as her family has grown. She has gone from full-time work to staying at home with her four children, then working from home and now back to part-time work as a church secretary while her kids are in school.

“Working again has helped me confirm that I am still valuable outside the realm of my home,” Hays says.

Before her daughters were born, Stacy Newell worked at the Northwest District of the Assemblies of God in Snoqualmie, Wash., as the event coordinator and camp facilitator for the youth department. Now she volunteers part time at North Creek Church in Vancouver, Wash., which she and her husband planted in 2006 — with help from stay-at-home moms.

“With no budget to hire pastoral staff, we ‘hired’ several moms to do preschool, kids, youth ministry and our financial stuff for a small monthly stipend,” says Newell. “Five of us moms run ministries around nap times, school hours, play dates, and after the kids go to bed at night, and are still able to be there when the kids get home from school or at their events. It’s been a win-win for everybody. It’s a really nice balance between raising kids and making a difference in the community.”

“That’s what I want for every mom,” Hart says. “Freedom to be what God wants her to be, and freedom to be with her kids.”

Freelance writer JOCELYN GREEN is a mother of two who works from her Cedar Falls, Iowa, home.

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