A number of U.S. mothers are proud of their flexibility, but a third of them say they have little control over the level of time spent at home and at work.
Those are the findings of a “Trends in Working Families in the U.S.” report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
“Working Families: Families and Work in the United States, 2018” is released today.
It’s based on a telephone survey conducted April 10-April 27 among 1,005 adults in the U.S. Overall, 68% of mothers report that they make a few sacrifices to manage work and family, 58% say they have more flexibility than they wanted, 39% say they have less flexibility than they expected and 39% are satisfied with their situation.
But for about a third of moms, flexibility for a few years (41%) and for longer periods (35%) is worth leaving a higher-paying career that they still value.
In most cases, moms said a few lifestyle sacrifices — such as leaving a high-paying job to care for children or more vacation time — are more important than a few career and pay increases. For instance, 65% of fathers said two lifestyle sacrifices would be more important to them than a few career and pay increases.
Of the parents with young children, 77% say that for the longest time (five years or more), they have made lifestyle sacrifices, but only 38% say they have made them during a brief period.
The report is the first major look at attitudes and parental satisfaction as a result of the 2017 passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, an expansion of the existing eligibility requirements and the requirement that new hires must give 120 days of unpaid leave to parents. It is also the first wide-scale study on the results of this change.
The FMLA gives new parents up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for medical or family reasons, and up to 40 weeks unpaid leave for bereavement or to care for seriously ill family members.
The report finds that nearly three-quarters of working mothers (72%) and 78% of working fathers say they have good work-life balance, while just 20% of moms and 14% of dads say the same.
Among the groups with large shares of women employed, those with less than a high school diploma (66%) are more likely than those with more education (57%) to say they have good work-life balance. And in both cases, the share of mothers reporting good work-life balance is greater than the share of fathers (53% vs. 42%).
Compared with men, more women with a high school education or less say they have a good work-life balance (64% vs. 46%). Compared with men, more working mothers with more education (54%) say they have a good work-life balance.
The report also looks at how an employer’s level of commitment to employees with families is related to children’s feelings of security and parents’ satisfaction.
Among all parents, 68% say children feel safe at home. That number drops to 55% among parents with a spouse who works full time.
Among parents who work full time, the rate of this feeling is 42%, which is in line with the 39% of parents with a full-time spouse who report feeling safe at home. But parents with high school educations or less are about twice as likely to feel safe at home as parents with more education. About three-quarters of the working parents with a high school diploma or less (76%) say their children feel safe at home.
Some 41% of working moms say they have very little control over the amount of time they spend at home with their children, compared with 21% of dads. But 41% of working dads say the same, compared with 22% of working moms.
And, for working moms with no spouse working full time, it’s not just about the time they spend with their children: 60% report having very little control over how much they can work, compared with 41% of dads.