Research on stay-at-home parenting shows shift in parental roles

Research on stay-at-home parenting shows shift in parental roles

Professor Rachel Davis with her two children, Morgan and Parker.

Courtesy of John David Clark, Photography Editor

In today’s culture, feminism is a topic frequently emphasized in all facets of American life. Women are encouraged more than ever before to defy stereotypes and established expectations. This is reflected in a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center on stay-at-home parents.

The study indicates that, while the number of women who do not work outside the home has stayed about the same, the percentage of stay-at-home dads has increased from 4 to 7 percent since 1989.

This data conveys that more women do maintain their traditional role and stay at home to raise children instead of joining the workforce as opposed to men; 27 percent of mothers solely stay home with their children. However, the increase in stay-at-home dads suggests a shift in the balance of the parenting load.

Associate Professor of Spanish and French and mother-of-two Dr. Sara Ortega-Higgs and her husband both maintain careers and keep their children in Lee’s Early Learning Center during the day. Despite the fact that she, as a working mom, represents most mothers, she believes that all stay-at-home moms should feel empowered.

“As a feminist, I believe that every woman should be doing whatever she feels called to do. It’s whatever makes them feel fulfilled as a woman, not something that is dictated to them by society or a patriarchal system,” Ortega-Higgs said. “If it’s their choice and they love that and that’s what they’ve been called to do, I’m totally fine with that, and I respect it.”

Junior political science major Richard Farri, as he plans to pursue a career, would prefer his future wife to care for their children at home because his mother fulfilled that role for him in his youth. He clarified that he does not believe that this stereotype for women should remain, but he does believe that one parent should be at home with the children while the other works.

Farri said he understands that today’s culture is evolving and that some stereotypes are being reversed, but he does not believe that this is due to a shift in gender roles. He said he believes there are more stay-at-home dads because women are being encouraged to earn degrees and enter a profession.

“I think it has more to do with the influx and inflation of education,” Farri said.

Senior music major Cherish Varlack believes people from several varying perspectives on the topic are represented at Lee. She said there are women who are solely focused on their career while others prioritize getting married and settling down.

Varlack finds herself in the latter category but doesn’t believe she is being influenced by antiquated ideals and expectations.

“I don’t feel pressure to [stay at home], but I have always wanted to,” Varlack said.

She explained that her mom raised her at home, and this made her desire the same upbringing for her children. Varlack’s father also wanted this life for his children because his mother also stayed at home.

Regarding the increase in stay-at-home dads, Varlack said she thinks stereotypes are shifting today. From her perspective, it is not weird or uncommon to see a stay-at-home dad or a working mother.

Ortega-Higgs also had a stay-at-home mother, but she does not believe that this role is unique to one generation, class or upbringing.

“Every woman should be doing what she’s called to do,” Ortega-Higgs said. “To moms in general: you can do both, and you don't have to feel guilty about it. If God has called you to do both, he will supply grace to fill the gaps.”

To learn more about Pew Research Center’s studies, visit their website.

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