- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

The number of children who are cared for by their married mothers at home while their fathers work has grown significantly over recent years, the Census Bureau says in a report on children.

In 1994, around 9.3 million children younger than 15 had stay-at-home married mothers and working fathers, said Jason Fields, author of the bureau’s report, “Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2002.”

By 2002, the number of these children rose to 11 million — a statistically significant increase, said Mr. Fields.

“This is just another indicator that there’s this quiet grass-roots movement” among mothers to return home to raise their children, said Brenda Hunter, a psychologist and author of several books, including “The Power of Mother Love.”

A few years ago, she said, federal data showed that more mothers of infants were staying home. About 55 percent of mothers with infants were working in 2000, compared with 59 percent in 1998, the first big decline since 1976.

“And it’s not just mothers of babies who are stepping out of the work force; it’s mothers of older children,” said Mrs. Hunter, who is member of the Motherhood Project at the Institute for American Values.

“Women know that older children need them around just as much as babies, because of the drugs, sex, the terrible influences that are out there.”

Another explanation is that “unemployment is up and it may be that families that used to have two wage earners may be finding they only have one job,” said Leslie Calman, executive vice president of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“It may also be that they weigh the cost of quality child care against their own earnings and decide for a time to stay home,” she said, adding that today the fund is starting a “family initiative” program aimed at getting more and better child care, preschool and after-school services.

Stay-at-home mothers, added Ms. Calman, are interested in affordable preschool programs.

For most parents, the decision to stay home is deliberate and personal, said Susan DeRitis of Family and Home Network, a group for at-home parents. Staying home involves sacrifice: no more exotic vacations or fancy cars and lots of budgeting, she said.

But parents “are realizing that their children need them, they want to be at home to raise them, whether it’s an at-home mom or an at-home dad, and they’re making the decision to do that.”

The new census report is the first to focus on children’s families, household relationships and economic situations, said Mr. Fields. “America’s Families and Living Arrangements Report,” a separate study issued in alternate years, looks at adults and household characteristics.

In the children’s report, released late last week, the census found that in 2002:

• Around 69 percent, or 49.7 million, of the nation’s 72.3 million children younger than 18 lived with two parents. That was essentially the same percentage seen since the early 1990s.

• Of the 19.8 million children living with single parents, 16.5 million, or 83 percent, lived with their mothers, and 3.3 million, or 17 percent, lived with their fathers.

• Children who lived with their single fathers were likely to be living in cohabiting households. About 33 percent, or 1.1 million children, lived with fathers and their unmarried partners. In comparison, 11 percent, or 1.8 million, of children who lived with their single mothers had unmarried partners in the homes.

• Around 5.6 million children, or 8 percent of the total, lived with grandparents in the homes. Most of these children — 3.7 million — lived in their grandparents’ homes.

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