In Tough Economy, Fewer Moms Stay at Home

By Toni Vranjes

February 2, 2010

The nation is reeling from high unemployment, sending jitters through American households. In these difficult economic times, some stay-at-home moms will need to return to work sooner than they had planned.

The economic turmoil has increased the financial pressures facing mothers. Layoffs have hit male-dominated industries, such as manufacturing and construction, especially hard. Three-quarters of the jobs lost during the recession were held by men, and this trend has boosted women’s share of jobs. Today, half of U.S. workers are women.

In recent decades, women’s incomes have become vital for families. Nearly two-thirds of mothers were primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in 2008, according to the Shriver Report, a landmark study by California First Lady Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress. In 1967, only 28 percent of mothers filled those roles.

During the economic downturn, women’s earnings have become more and more important, and fewer moms are spending all day at home with their kids, government data show.

More married couples with children are relying entirely on mom for financial support, according to the Census Bureau. The wife was the sole breadwinner in 7 percent of these households last year, up from 5 percent in 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of stay-at-home moms dropped from 5.6 million in 2007 to 5.1 million last year, the Census Bureau reported.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom and the economy is forcing you back to work — or even if you simply want to return — you may feel anxious and overwhelmed. But there is hope. A variety of specialized career websites can provide support and boost your chances of success.

“These organizations can help you with advice, networking, skills and contacts,” says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group based in New York.

Check out these online career resources for guidance, whether you’re seeking a traditional full-time job or a flexible work arrangement. Also, develop a career-reentry plan to improve your prospects and ease your transition back to work.

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