This article from The New York Times is fascinating, as it takes a look at why American women often don’t re-enter the workforce right away after having children.
…a lack of family-friendly policies also appears to have contributed to the lower rate [of joblessness among women]. In a New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of nonworking adults aged 25 to 54 in the United States, conducted last month, 61 percent of women said family responsibilities were a reason they weren’t working, compared with 37 percent of men. Of women who identify as homemakers and have not looked for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters said they would consider going back if a job offered flexible hours or allowed them to work from home.
For many women with children, it seems, the decision about work involves weighing a particularly complex set of benefits and drawbacks. And often the challenge is insurmountable in part because there is a dearth of programs and policies in the United States to support women in their prime career and childbearing years. In Europe, meanwhile, such policies have continued to expand and evolve in recent years. They include subsidized child care, generous parental leaves and taxation of individuals instead of families, which encourages women’s employment. Social acceptance of working motherhood has also made a difference in countries like France, where the birthrate has risen even as more women enter the work force.
But perhaps here’s a reason:
But some attitudes in the United States have also stalled since the feminist revolution. A Pew Research Center survey from 2007 reported that 41 percent of adults say it is bad for society when mothers with young children work and just 22 percent say it is good. A recent Harvard Business School study found that among its graduates in their 20s, men expected that their careers would be more important than their wives’ and that they would do less child care, while women expected equality. Because of these conflicting attitudes, women sometimes feel unable to work even if they want to.
Certainly makes me nervous about starting a family, while at the same time, acknowledging the fact that I – as a person, and a woman – derive real satisfaction from working outside the home. For more on my thoughts on this issue, check out my review for Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?