Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recession, family ties compel more moms to stay at home

By Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • September 23, 2009 Franklin's Diana Wampold was enjoying a successful career and the notion of not working didn't occur to her until her daughter was born. Wampold was working in sales for AT&T, making good money, when Ashley arrived. She and her husband decided to make a change. "I loved what I did, but I missed my daughter," she said. "Whenever I went to work, there was a pain in my chest when I left my first daughter. We made a choice, and I've been home ever since. We made a few sacrifices.'' But staying home to take care of her children — Ashley, 11, Megan, 8, and Emily, 6 — has been worth it, Wampold said, and she is not alone. An analysis of 2008 Census data released this week shows Williamson County mothers are staying home at a higher rate — 36 percent of them — than the state average of 30 percent. At its highest peak, 4 out of 10 Williamson County moms stayed at home in 2006. It's not unusual for affluent communities to have a high number of stay-at-home mothers, but the recession has forced some working women in the middle class to stay at home. In Davidson County, 35 percent of mothers are staying at home, a 6 percent increase since 2006. Adriana DeLeon of Nashville was forced to stay at home about two years ago when she lost her job at a local plant. She said she doesn't mind her stay-at-home mom status but when the children are older, it's easier to go to work. Dads stay home, too Fathers also are in the mix, with Rutherford County trending upward as 4 percent of dads are staying home with their children. Daniel Hickman of Murfreesboro made the decision to stay home on Christmas 2007, the day their son, DJ, was born. Hickman said he and his wife did a cost analysis of their income, and after calculating the money that would be spent on gas and child care, it was a fairly easy decision for him to stay home. "My wife works at Dell and made a lot more money, so staying at home made sense for me," Hickman said. "I can watch him grow up, and it's been going pretty good." Hickman plans play dates for DJ with other stay-at-home fathers, and they learn from each other. A strong pull for moms Even though more fathers are staying home with their children, the number of stay-at-home mothers dwarfs the number of stay-at-home dads. There is still a strong social consensus, including working mothers themselves, that wants mothers with young children to stay at home, said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, which tracks social demographic trends. The Pew Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit center in Washington, D.C. In a survey conducted by Pew earlier this month, 61 percent of working mothers of young children said they would prefer part-time work. In contrast, 19 percent of fathers with full-time jobs and a young child said they would prefer to work part time. "There is a real tension, clearly, over the last generation as more women, mothers are increasing in the work force," Taylor said. "But, yet, those family tensions are experienced by women at a higher level than men." Wampold said some working mothers and single women still view the stay-at-home option negatively. But Wampold, who was raised by her stay-at-home mother, feels fulfilled. "I think it all depends on people's personality," she said. Database editor Lisa Green contributed to this report.

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