Study: More women choosing to be stay-at-home moms

2014-06-16T19:00:00Z 2014-06-17T23:15:04Z Study: More women choosing to be stay-at-home momsVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

She went from working 70 hours a week managing an appliance store to working 24/7 without breaks or a vacation.

Schererville resident Julie Hanks is among the growing number of women ditching their desks for life as a stay-at-home mom.

A Pew Research Center analysis of government data shows the number of stay-at-home moms is the highest in recent years. In 2012, 29 percent of mothers did not work outside the home, up from a modern-era low of 23 percent in 1999, according to the analysis.

The turnaround, which appears to be driven by a mix of demographic, economic and societal factors, shows a reversal of the decline in stay-at-home mothers in the last three decades of the 20th century, according to the analysis.

It's not the life Hanks envisioned.

"My job was my life," she said. "I loved having a career." 

The 34-year-old married mother of 6-year-old Jaylee and 3-year-old Jaden said the moment she met eyes with her first born, she knew she couldn't return to her old work pattern.

"Work just seemed so insignificant to having a baby," she said. 

Her boss said she could come back part time, which she did for two years.

When she was two months pregnant with her son, Hanks' husband changed jobs, a move that brought a substantial pay increase that meant she didn't have to work if she didn't want to.

They prayed about it and decided she would stay home full time.

"At first, it was hard," she said. "It was hard for me not to go into work, but now I love it. I can volunteer. I can go to all their games, all their events."

Her expectations of life as a stay-at-home mom has somewhat aligned with reality.

"I didn't realize how much work it really involved," she said. "Meaning, physically, emotionally. At every aspect. But, it's more rewarding than I could ever imagine."

Hanks was surprised to hear staying at home is on the rise because most of her friends were not stay-at-home moms. As she joined the ranks, her friendship circles expanded when she became a member of the national group Mothers of Preschoolers, also known as MOPS, which has local groups in communities.

"One of the hardest things for me leaving my job was I didn't get to interact with adults day in and day out," Hanks said.

She found ways around that by staying active in the community, at church and at school. She is president of the parents' club at Crown Point Christian School in St. John and financial coordinator for the 250-member strong MOPS group that meets at Faith Church in Dyer.

In March, Hanks signed up as an independent consultant selling decorative fingernail wraps. It gets her out of the house once a week, she said.

Hanks expects to rejoin the workforce when Jaden enters kindergarten.

The work/family balance can be a divisive issue, especially when it plays out on the Internet. But, Hanks said she supports any mother who takes an active role in her child's life, whether as a stay-at-home mom or a mom who works outside the home. 

"I would never judge any mom for pursuing a career," she said. "Everyone's situation is different."

Crown Point resident Tabatha Wood-Thompson agrees the best choice is one that makes sense for each family. For hers, it was to stay at home and raise her daughter.

"Nothing against anyone who chooses day care," she said. "Everybody has a different reason for what they may do. I just feel, for me, it was the best decision I ever made."

A 26-year-old stay-at-home mom who is pregnant and due in July, Wood-Thompson worked full time while pregnant but left her job as a sales representative for an Internet, phone and television company to stay home and raise daughter Tegan, who is now 2.

At the same time, her husband worked full time while earning a bachelor's degree from Purdue University Calumet in Hammond. He works as a freelance writer from home and part-time at a former job.

"It definitely gets hard solely providing with one income," she said. "I'd rather us struggle a tiny bit now to be with the kids than be those parents working 60 hours a week."

The couple explored day care options but found it difficult to secure one that would accommodate the vegan diet they share with their daughter.

Wood-Thompson also knew she wanted to breastfeed for at least a year. Although law requires a workplace to create a space for women to pump milk or breastfeed, it was not worth the hassle.

And, the math didn't add up. Day cares were asking $250 a week. 

"I'd rather watch her myself than fork over three-quarters of my paycheck for day care," she said.

Wood-Thompson started taking online college courses and will resume in the fall. In a couple of years, she may return to the workforce.

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