Nearly a quarter of American mothers now identify as stay-at-home parents—a sharp rise from the 15% in 2022, according to a large survey of US women conducted by Motherly, an advocacy group.
The 2023 statistic—24%—means that nine percent of mothers have given up their jobs over the past year. The survey asked respondents for a primary reason in initiating this change in their job status, if they’d made such a change. The most common motivation, shared by 24% of surveyed mothers: wanting to stay home with children.
The survey’s findings also suggest that increased flexibility at work and more affordable childcare options would help women move back in to the workplace. Almost half of all the mothers surveyed (45%) said that if they wished to work in the future, affordable childcare would be necessary. And almost two-thirds (62%) said that they would need work flexibility in order to return.
US workplaces just don’t work for mothers
As the answers suggested, many of the over 9,000 women who answered Motherly’s survey want to spend time at home with children. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t also want a job outside the home. The reasons people choose full-time parenting over other structures are complex, taking into account money, available childcare, specific children’s needs, and what kinds of work are available.
The US has, historically, been a culture that makes few allowances for the needs of parents, and working mothers in particular. Parental leave is not mandated, work hours tend to be long, and the state doesn’t provide free or subsidised countrywide childcare, as exists in many other countries. Unpaid domestic work tends to fall disproportionately on women.
In the survey, 67% of respondents said they pay at least $1,000 a month on childcare, and almost a third pay over $2,000 a month, enough to make a large dent in most salaries. A fifth said they were dissatisfied with the childcare they did have, and of those, almost 70% said the cost was too high.
Women are significantly less satisfied at work too, according to data released last week by the Conference Board, a business research organization. And a global report on women at work released by Deloitte found that, in the US, a standout reason for that was lack of flexibility.
That dissatisfaction is also in evidence in Motherly’s parent-specific study. Answering the question “Which best describes your mentality around combining a career and motherhood under current circumstances?,” a quarter of all the women surveyed said they were “Frustrated—I want both but need a new arrangement at work to make that realistic.”