'Breadwinner moms' now in 40% of households

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ashley Hester is the mother of a 2-year-old girl. She works in mortgage banking in Jacksonville. And for the last several years, she's been the primary breadwinner in her family.

"It's difficult. It definitely takes a lot of time management and prioritizing," Hester said. "It's also rewarding though to be able to provide the financial security for your family. And I find pride in the example that I set for my daughter, so that helps a lot to swallow the time spent away."

According to a recent Pew Research Center Survey, 40 percent of households with children include "breadwinner moms." That's four times what it was in 1960.

"It's important to keep in mind that within that number, 40 percent, there's really quite a variety of experiences that women are having," said Krista Paulsen, sociology department chair at the University of North Florida. "Some are very low-earning single mothers, some are very high-earning members of dual-income households, so we can't really say that this is a uniform kind of experience."

Paulsen attributes the rise to better educated and trained women and the recent recession, which severely affected men's employment.

"We might anticipate if men are bringing less in economically, they would contribute more in terms of childcare, housework and so on, and we find exactly the opposite is the case," Paulsen said. "Often women are compensating for that perceived slight to their partner's masculinity by doing more of the housework."

Hester says the new finding is a testament to how hard women work and how far they've come.

"I think it's amazing that women are privileged enough to stay home with their children when they are able to do that, and I respect stay-at-home moms. I envy them, as a matter of fact," Hester said. "But for those who are not, to have this accomplishment to not only be a working mother but a breadwinning working mother, I mean, that's amazing. And then whenever you throw a statistic in like 40 percent, it's impressive to me, and I'm proud of it, actually."

According to the new survey, 28 percent agree it is generally better for a marriage if the husband earns more than his wife.

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