By Paul Bremmer
Up to 57 percent of mothers of infants either held a job or looked for work in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And as children grow older, more and more mothers choose to leave the home and go to work, the bureau reports, with 61 percent of mothers with children under 3 years old participating in the labor force in 2013.
That number rose to 64 percent for mothers of children under 6 years and 75 percent for those with children ages 6 to 17.
The percentages have risen steadily in the past 40 years. In 1976, only 34 percent of mothers with children under 3 were in the labor force, according to the Department of Labor. That number was only 40 percent for mothers with children under 6 and 56 percent for those with children ages 6 to 17.
Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly is dismayed by the trend, writing in her 2014 book “Who Killed the American Family?” that the “major goal of the women’s liberation movement is to move all wives out of the home and into the labor force.”
“The feminist view is that caring for children, even your own, is demeaning work for an educated woman,” she said.
Schlafly cited Simone de Beauvoir, the 20th-century philosopher and feminist icon who claimed that any woman who chose to be a full-time homemaker was a “parasite.”
Schlafly quoted Beauvoir saying this: “We don’t believe that any woman should have this choice. No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children … precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”
However, the Labor Department data show that 70 percent of all mothers with children under 18 participated in the labor force in 2013. Among single mothers, the participation rate was 74 percent; but even among married mothers with their spouse present, the rate was 68 percent.
So if feminists believe mothers should not raise their children, who do they think should do it?
“Feminists demand that the taxpayers provide high-quality day care,” Schlafly wrote in her book. “They also want laws to force men to assume half of the household and baby-care duties, but they haven’t achieved that goal yet.”
However, data show that fathers are doing more housework than they used to do. A 2013 Pew Research Center report found that American fathers more than doubled their time spent on housework from four hours per week in 1965 to about 10 hours per week in 2011.
Mothers, meanwhile, are doing less housework than before. During that same period, mothers cut their housework time almost in half, from 32 hours per week to 18 hours per week.
Similarly, fathers spent about seven hours per week on child care in 2011 after spending only two hours in 1965. Mothers spent about 13 hours on child care in 2011 after spending 10 in 1965.
Taxpayers may not be providing high-quality day care yet, but enrollment in day care programs has increased in the past 50 years. In 1965, only 6 percent of children with working mothers were in “organized center-based care arrangements,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2011, that number had risen to 25 percent.
Schlafly believes feminism is not in sync with the traditional American family.
“Feminism cultivates the attitude that a woman must put her own self-fulfillment above every other value,” Schlafly wrote in her book. “That attitude is not compatible with marriage and motherhood, and it does not produce happiness.”