The Rise of the Working Stay at Home Mom

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- When Delaine Moore became a single mother of three kids six years ago, she explored full-time work but found these positions weren't flexible enough. The divorce recovery coach needed a job that allowed her to work three to fours a day so that she could pick up her children after school.

"I continue to look at job postings on a daily basis," said Moore whose children are 13, 12 and 10 years old. "If I could find a flexible employer I would work full time."

Instead, Delaine works from home.

"A 9-to-5 means being separate from my children and not being there for them 8 to 10 hours a day," Moore told MainStreet. "I chose to be there for my kids during their formative years and to worry about my career later in life."

Luckily, Delaine's memoir The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom, (Seal Press, 2012), was optioned and acquired by Lifetime Television.

"I was paid enough to get by on with my kids for a little while," Moore said.

The author is not alone in opting to stay at home and work from home. According to a Pew Research Center government data survey, the number of stay at home mothers increased to 29% from 23% in 1999.

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"Entrepreneurship is a vital key to allowing women to enjoy both motherhood and the stimulation of work," said Margie Baldock, author of the book The Mother Lode Manifesto (Star Fire Books 2013).

The Pew survey found that an increase in stay-at-home mothers is a result of rising immigration and a downturn in women's labor force participation set against a backdrop of public ambivalence about the impact of working mothers on young children. "Myself and other women executives earned money for our families, but somehow we internalized our absences as being bad parents," said Francesca Kuglen, who launched a hair products company called Jontee Accessories that was subsequently acquired by Newell-Rubbermaid. The Pew study found that 34% of stay-at-home mothers are living in poverty compared to 12% of working mothers.

"I changed professions and earned less," said Moore. "Something has to give."

The more affluent stay-at-home mothers with median family income of $132,000 were found to be older than married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands. Just 19% were younger than 35 years old, and 53% of this affluent demographic had at least one child younger than 5 years old.

"It takes courage for women to step out of the prescribed role of Suzy Homemaker," said Kuglen, who raised two daughters with her husband. "It takes just as much courage for a woman to focus on breastfeeding and organic baby food despite holding a prestigious MBA and acute edge for statistical analysis."

Those who are married with working husbands generally are better off financially. They are more highly educated, and only 15% live in poverty compared to the majority of other stay-at-home mothers.

"Money is so important, because not having it mostly means that women have to spend time away from their families," Baldock told MainStreet. "And not having the time you wish to have with your family is a tragedy. Every mother should be in a position to make a choice about this and not be forced by money constraints to work when she wishes to be with her family."

Traditional married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands make up about 10.4 million of the nation's stay at home mothers.

"The choice of husband is the most powerful indicator of how successfully a woman will be able to find balance and success," Kuglen told MainStreet. "My husband and I agreed from the beginning that there was no such thing as women's work. Dirty diapers, food shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, sewing, car pooling, ironing, making lunch, paying bills, financial planning and potty training are all equal opportunity jobs."

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--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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