By Susan Heavey ,Reuters
WASHINGTON — Federal employee Leslie Shah went back to work just after her second child celebrated his first birthday, one of a growing number of American mothers who are choosing full-time work since the U.S. economic downturn. “It really came down to a financial decision,” said Shah, 44, who lives in Maryland just outside Washington. “Gas prices are up, my grocery bill is up.”
More American women are feeling pressed to work a greater number of hours even as the country emerges from its economic doldrums. A Pew Research Center Report released on Thursday found nearly one in three Americans mothers last year said they would prefer a full-time job, up from one in five in 2007. Lead researcher Kim Parker cited the 2007-2009 recession as the likely factor behind the findings, adding that fewer women said they wanted to work full time before the downturn. “I doubt that that’s because that’s what they really want, but that’s what they really need to provide for their families,” Parker said in an interview. Pew’s findings, based in part on its survey of 2,511 adults nationwide in late 2012, came amid renewed public debate about working mothers in the United States. Former U.S. State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter put working moms back in the spotlight with a magazine article last summer on “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” In the fall, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer announced she put in a full day’s work two weeks after her baby was born, then banned telecommuting a few months later. The debate intensified this month with Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Lean In” pushing women to take on leadership roles. One woman who did that, former Lehman Brothers Chief Financial Officer Erin Callan, lamented in the New York Times on Sunday never having taken the time to have children. The uproar stirred by the female executives opened wounds about privilege, choice and class divide. Critics said that for American women who are not well-paid top company officials, there is often no choice in the matter — they have to work — and the debate over style and leadership is all but moot. According to Pew, women struggling with money, especially single mothers, were far more likely to desire full-time jobs.