School & District Management

Who Are American Mothers Today?

By Karla Scoon Reid — May 16, 2014 1 min read
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While American mothers spanning many generations may debate what’s changed regarding our lives, the Pew Research Center took a look at the data behind those discussions.

In a post released this month on the Pew Research Center’s Fact Tank web page, Wendy Wang, a research associate for the center’s Social and Demographic Trends Projects, and Andrea Caumont, an editorial web producer, walk us through the numbers.

They found that American mothers with young children are more likely to be unmarried than several decades ago, with 30 percent either being divorced or having never married. In 1960, almost all mothers were married—92 percent.

Face it, American moms, we’re older, too. According to the post, the average age of a first-time mother was 25.8 in 2012, up from 21.4 in 1970. I’m honestly surprised that age isn’t higher. I was 34 when my first son was born, and I see few really young moms chasing after their kids on the playgrounds now.

The researchers go on to acknowledge that American moms spend more time working outside the home. But a recent Pew Research Center analysis of government data found that the share of stay-at-home moms increased for the first time in decades, climbing from 23 percent in 1999 to 29 percent in 2012. Yet, if you ask mothers to describe their “ideal” work situation, most still prefer to head to the office in at least a part-time position than to stay at home.

So what’s a mother to make of these numbers? Well, just realize that you’re not the only mom over 40 picking your children up at the elementary school while fielding a work call on your cell phone. For those of you in the trenches at home with no work-based escape, look for more moms to join your ranks soon.

My key takeaway, regardless if you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, you still need to remember to sign that darned field trip permission slip.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.