Belying the image of the “liberated” working mother, a recent National Review Online commentary cites research by Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, showing that, for the vast majority married moms, the workplace is not the top choice of where they want to spend their days.
In reviewing data from the 2000 National Survey of Marriage and Family Life, Wilcox found that only 18 percent of married women with children said they would prefer to work full-time, in contrast to 46 percent who would prefer to work part-time and 36 percent who said that they would prefer to stay at home. In addition, among married moms who were working full-time, nearly 75 percent said they would rather work fewer hours or not at all.
A bevy of sociological studies show that the mother’s intuition regarding what is best for her children is on the mark. Research throughout the last two decades reveals that children who attend day care centers are more likely to exhibit problem behavior and poor social skills than those being cared for by their parents. Furthermore, the children’s problem behavior is more pronounced the younger they are when they enter day care and the more hours they spend in center care each week.
The association between hours in day care and behavioral problems is prevalent regardless of socioeconomic status. And, sadly, the effects of time spent in day care centers can be long-term, with problem behavior extending even to middle-school years.
Research also indicates that the link between day care center attendance and problem behavior might be traced to an insecure mother–child attachment associated with extended hours in non-maternal care.
In addition to these socio-emotional difficulties are the health risks and propensity to infections and illness that numerous studies have found to be associated with day care center attendance.
In sum, years of research underscore the importance of mothers’ instinctive desire to be with their children: Mother’s intuition trumps the feminist icon. Taxpayers and policymakers should work to promote policies that would enable moms to make the choice to stay at home and care for their children.