- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2006

The “mommy wars” are heating up. ABC News recently highlighted an article written last fall by Linda Hirshman that criticized college-educated women for leaving the work force to raise children. The debate over the family has been intensifying as more women discover that something has to give when you try to work full time and raise a family.

The census figures confirm the trend that has caused Ms. Hirshman so much concern. The number of mothers with infants working full time, part time or seeking employment reached a peak of 58.7 percent in 1998. That number has been declining steadily every year since 1998 and reached 52.9 percent in 2004.

According to Ms. Hirshman, the most troubling aspect of this trend is that even women with graduate or professional degrees are turning away from the work force. Fifty-four percent of these women with degrees who have children younger than 1 are not working full time (of the 54 percent, 18 percent are working part time and 36 percent are not working at all). Even among those who have children who are not infants, 41 percent are not working full time (18 percent are working part time and 23 percent are not working at all).

Choice obviously plays the key role. More women are choosing to stay home and raise their children.

This trend also plays a role in the growth of home-schooling. Many women who seek the advantages of family life also choose to home-school. In the process, they rediscover the benefits of being “full time” with their children.

The unfortunate truth is that working moms often miss seeing much of their younger children’s development (first steps, first words, new discoveries, etc.) Home-schooling, especially as children get older, allows moms more time to interact and get to know their children better. Many working moms are tired from their workday, and the few concentrated hours in the evenings, when energy and emotional levels are low, are not ideal times for interaction.

For a woman working full time outside the home, simply juggling the various priorities between work and family can be overwhelming. Home-schooling is certainly challenging, but it focuses on one of a parents’ highest priorities — children. Raising children who will be mature, educated, involved citizens leaves a lasting legacy. If one’s time is divided, it’s much more difficult to make the necessary investments in children. Many full-time working women are working to make ends meet, but simply working to earn more money is not as fulfilling as many of us know.

Additionally, is the financial benefit that significant? Once the cost of day care, eating out, added medical expenses from illnesses caught at the day care center, a more expensive wardrobe for the job, additional transportation needs, added baby-sitting for unexpected work-related evening/weekend meetings, are tallied the financial benefits of working outside the home diminish greatly.

An alternative is to work inside the home. With the advent of modern technology there are more and more opportunities for women to earn a part-time income at home. More home-schooling moms are taking advantage of work in the home as opportunities are becoming more readily available. These opportunities give women today so many more choices.

The lines are shifting in the “mommy wars.” The trend is toward home and family. As women are taking advantage of these opportunities and making wise choices for themselves and their families, it is likely that more women will choose to stay home and be motivated to make the commitment to home-school. Choosing to stay at home and spending more time with our children is a natural step to home education. It remains to be seen whether the trend will continue, but new technologies are giving women options and more women are exercising those options and staying home.

Michael Smith is president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600, or send e-mail to [email protected]

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