By day, my wife Holly effectively builds upon an impressive career in the newsroom (she’s an editor at USA TODAY) and by night she sets an ideal example for our two young daughters.
For some families, having a parent who stays at home works for them. There are plenty of benefits of having a “stay-at-home” mom, to use that imperfect phrase. For a number of reasons, we decided that wasn’t for us.
Thankfully, it’s working for our family. Our girls, especially the oldest, are beginning to take notice of the world around them and mimic everything. When I take our 4-year-old to preschool, I almost always offer to carry her backpack for her. Sometimes she’ll even let me, but often she’ll politely decline, while citing her independence and simultaneously giving away the reason she really wants to do it. “I wanna hold it like this,” she’ll say, before imitating Holly carrying her laptop bag. “I wanna hold it like Mommy.” And she’s already mentioned that she wants to “do what mommy does” when she gets big.
Then there’s our youngest, about to turn 2. Like most toddlers, she watches her mom’s every move. How she and her big sister shadow Holly around the house, and how they already carry themselves with the same obvious determination as my wife, reveals the kind of admiration they have for their mother. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
And there’s science to this, too: Women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to be employed. They also are more likely to hold a supervisory role and earn more money than women whose mothers stayed home full time, according to research from Harvard Business School.
In the last 50 years, so much has changed. The employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data. But although the workforce has changed, the workplace is largely the same. It’s not always easy, and our case is no exception.
Holly works days and I work nights. It’s very common for me to hand off our daughters to her as I head into work and she heads home. This means that she gets up at the crack of dawn and works a full day before coming home, keeping the girls entertained with books or puzzles or Legos or trips to the playground, orchestrates bath time and then tackles the seemingly impossible task of getting them to sleep.
And she does this, more days than not, without a sidekick.
Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild made waves in 1989 when she published The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home. After extensively interviewing dozens of working couples, she discovered what she called a “double day.” Basically, in her estimation, women came home from a full day of paid work to a “second shift” of work at home. By her calculations, women were working an extra month per year than their spouses.
Holly and I do our best to divide and conquer equally, but the juggle and struggle is real.
Salary.com crunched data last year and estimated that, for working women, mom duties add up to roughly 19 hours of overtime a week. For a mom with a base salary of $52,685, for example, those hours would add up to an estimated $37,538 annually in overtime pay. (That same survey found that, estimating a 92-hour work-week, a stay-at-home mom should be pulling in a salary of $143,102.)
Without a doubt, moms everywhere do a lot.
Holly has a tough job, but she doesn’t flinch. Each and every day, she’s a shining example for our young daughters. In my opinion, our girls have the best blueprint imaginable: One that shows them they can do anything by being confident in their abilities and always trying. One who can laugh when she muddles things up because, let’s be honest, it happens. One that teaches them to be ambitious young women, striving to take on the world.
The adoration I have for my wife never wanes, and our girls are clearly impacted, too. I realize calling my wife a superhero isn’t exactly an original statement. It’s a label many spouses use from time to time, and I’m not here to argue that I’m right and those spouses are wrong. I’m just here to state what I know — and to tell my wife that on Mother’s Day (and every day), our daughters and I see her super powers. And I can say from my front-row seat, the so-called “working mom” never stops working. Their contributions to the workplace and to their families is something we should celebrate every single day.
Casey Moore is a digital editor with USA TODAY Sports. His wife, Holly, also is a USA TODAY editor. They have two daughters. Follow him on Twitter: @Casey_Moore