At a glance
The percentage of stay-at-home moms (ages 18 to 69) in 2012 with children younger than 18, according to the Pew Research Center:
49 percent are nonwhite (including Hispanics)
33 percent are foreign-born
49 percent have a high school diploma or less
34 percent are living in poverty
20 percent are married with working husband
FORT WAYNE — Evan Roth, 14, has sort of a standing joke with his stay-at-home mother.
“Evan was like, ‘Hey, Mom, do you know if you worked full time, we’d have a really nice boat?’ ” Laura Roth said. “I said, ‘No, you would miss me.’ And he was like, ‘Mmmm, I’d kinda like the boat, Mom.’ ”
Then Evan and his sister Olivia, 16, and his brother Andrew, 8, should know that their mother is a trend-setter.
According to a recent Pew Research Center report, a greater share of mothers is not working outside the home than at any time in the past 20 years.
The share of mothers with children younger than 18 staying at home was 29 percent in 2012, up from a modern-era low of 23 percent in 1999, according to the research center’s analysis of government data. The turnaround could be a result of a mix of demographic, economic and societal factors.
The percentage of nonwhite mothers with a child or children younger than 18 was 49 percent, according to the survey, 33 percent for foreign-born mothers, 49 percent for mothers who have a high school diploma or less, and 34 percent for those living in poverty.
“The largest share consists of ‘traditional’ married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands,” Pew’s report stated. “They made up roughly two-thirds of the nation’s 10.4 million stay-at-home mothers in 2012. In addition to this group, some stay-at-home mothers are single, cohabiting or married with a husband who does not work.
“The economic ups and downs of the past decade likely influenced mothers’ decisions on whether to stay home or go to work,” the report continues. “The share of mothers staying home with their children rose from 2000 to 2004, but the rise stopped in 2005, amid economic uncertainty that foreshadowed the official start of the Great Recession in 2007. The increase in both number and share eventually resumed: From 2010 to 2012, the share of stay-at-home mothers (29 percent) was three percentage points higher than in 2008 (26 percent), at the height of the recession.”
Before she and her husband, Jon, had children, Roth, 48, had a career as a full-time executive secretary.
Except for working between six and 10 hours a week with a church ministry, Roth has not held a full-time job for nearly 17 years.
“I haven’t had to miss anything,” she says. “I’m here. I’ve seen (the children as babies) roll over. I’ve seen their first steps. I got to be here for all the Play-Doh and the paint on the kitchen table. … We just decided we could live without the lake house, and we would live without a lot of the luxuries. So being home with the kids would be our luxury.”
Another suggested factor for the increase of stay-at-home mothers is the cost of child care.
The Pew Research Center reports that 7.2 percent of household incomes in which mothers are employed go to child care, with the average weekly total of $148. In 1985, the household income percent was 6.3, with the weekly total of $87.
Julie Veerkamp, 34, and her husband, Greg, have four children – Elizabeth, 5; Sam, 3; Marie, 2; and Thomas, 1.
Julie works two days a week outside the home as a tutor.
“I always tell Greg, ‘I get two days a week where I get to eat lunch without anybody hanging on my leg,’ so that is a real treat for me,” says Julie, who admits circumstances vary with each family.
“If a mother could choose to stay home, most mothers I’ve talked to would,” she says. “The only mothers that I know work full time are the ones that financially have to. It’s not that they want to be away from their kids, it’s just that’s what they have to do to support their family.
“I feel there’s a mutual respect. Working mothers have a mutual respect for the stay-at-home moms and vice versa. We are kind of, hopefully, becoming more empathetic for each other.”
There was a time, Roth says, when she sensed a stigma against stay-at-home moms; that she had to “explain” why she didn’t work outside the home, although she doesn’t experience that now.
“They thought you sat home and you must be watching TV all day, but that’s not the case,” Roth says. “All three of my kids are in school now, and I can work all day at home, and I still have things I’m doing all evening when they’re home.
“It’s almost like people think you don’t have enough drive to do something else. Or that you lacked ambition, so you just do this. I was older when I had my kids. I chose this.”
The Pew report says reasons vary why some moms stay home. For some, paying a hefty chunk of a salary for child care doesn’t make a job seem worthwhile. For others, they cannot find a full-time job. And for others, a mom working outside the home isn’t a financial necessity.
“I feel that I’m much more in tune with what’s going on with them,” Veerkamp says. “It’s easier for me to spot if a behavior is flaring up or even like a sickness. I can tell if they’re off a little bit more, not feeling as well.
“I’m hoping that our society is starting to swing into more of a simplistic society. I think our generation has been guilty of – I hear a lot of people say, ‘We want what our parents have at 50, when we’re only 25, 30.’ But people in our generation haven’t always seen how hard our parents worked to get what they have. I’m hoping we’re going back into being more simplistic.”