Let’s be clear: It is a privileged group of women and men who ever confront this decision. Many don’t have anything approaching a financial choice when it comes to working. Others have children whose health problems dictate that someone be there to manage their care. The issue is further distorted by socioeconomic class: One mother stays home because child care for her kids would cost more than she could possibly earn or because she can’t find appropriate employment; another stays home but has full-time help and plenty of money left over. There is a danger in lumping people together too categorically.
Ask 500 people a bunch of questions and you will learn something. Our biggest surprise: the men. We threw them into the mix in the hope that they’d have something to add on this subject. Wow, do they ever. In one series of provocative questions, many declined to take sides. But when the men did choose an answer, they clearly shared the point of view of stay-at-home moms. If working mothers feel ambivalent about heading out to the office every day—and our survey says they do—could they partly be reacting to their husbands’ attitudes? The men who spoke up said stay-at-home moms are better mothers (by a ratio of 7 to 1), make better role models (2 to 1) and have better-behaved children (6 to 1). Try packing that in your briefcase and lugging it to the office every day.
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