October 2, 2009 / 2:16 AM / in 8 years

Working mothers feel more rushed but are happy: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Working mothers don’t have enough time in the day and feel guiltier than stay-at-home mums, but they’re just as happy even though they believe their careers often face a glass ceiling, according to a U.S. study.

A study by the Pew Research Center, analyzing several office surveys about work-family issues, found most people thought women should work, with 75 percent of Americans rejecting the idea that a woman’s place is in the home.

Women now make up almost half of the U.S. workforce, or 47 percent, up from 38 percent in 1970.

But the study found that although 59 percent of women work or are seeking work, many remain conflicted about the competing roles at work and a home, feeling far more guilt about how they are balancing work and children than fathers.

They are more likely than either stay-at-home mothers or working dads to feel as if there is not enough time in the day.

Four out of every 10 say they always feel rushed, compared with a quarter of the other two groups, according to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 62 percent of working mothers saying they would prefer to work part-time.

Only 37 percent of working mothers would prefer to work full-time compared to 79 percent of working fathers saying they would prefer full-time work.

“But despite these pressures and conflicts, working moms, overall, are as likely as at-home moms and working dads to say they’re happy with their lives,” the researchers said in a statement.

They found 36 percent of working mothers were very happy with their lives -- the same as at-home mothers -- while single mothers with children aged under 18 were the least happy group.

Stay-at-home mothers rated their parenting skills more highly than their working peers, with 43 percent giving themselves a score of 9 or 10 on the job they are doing as parents. Only 33 percent of working mothers rated themselves a 9 or 10.

The study found stay-at-home mothers tended to be young, Hispanic or foreign-born. Only 21 percent of at-home mothers are college graduates and African American women were more heavily concentrated among working mothers.

When asked why there are not more women in top-level business positions and high political offices, 49 percent said women were being held back by the “old-boy” network.

The second reason, cited, by 44 percent of respondents, was that the doors have not been open long enough for women to make it to the top while the third reason, at 38 percent, was that there are few women in high positions to inspire others.

The survey found only 34 percent of people believed family responsibilities did not leave women time to run a major corporation.

The researches said this study showed mothers would prefer to work part-time but the realities of the job market meant it was going to be more difficult for women to find flexible jobs.

Working fathers were starting to help out more at home, with previous studies showing they spend twice as much time caring for children and doing housework as they did in the 1960s but mothers would continue to bear the brunt of the work and guilt.

“For their part, most fathers are content to work full time and few seem to feel conflicted over their competing roles at work and at home,” said the researchers.

“Working women are left to wrestle with the competing demands of work and family.”

Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy

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