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HomeIllinois NewsThorner/O'Neil: Motherhood a Valued Vocation, Not an Old-Fashioned Notion

Thorner/O’Neil: Motherhood a Valued Vocation, Not an Old-Fashioned Notion




By Nancy Thorner & Bonnie O'Neil - 

There has been an unprecedented number of women that have joined America's work force in the last few decades. A 2016 survey indicated a whopping 70 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are currently in the workforce. Compare that with 33.9 percent of women who worked outside the home in the 1950’s and 59.8 percent in 1998 to realize the full extent of this significant change.

For some women and their families, having a job is a financial necessity, but the American economy has been generally good and is doing well today, indicating that for many women, their jobs outside of the home are by choice.  

What might have influenced their decision?  An extra paycheck is always welcome, but another factor is that America’s society has changed. Throughout history it was largely men who provided the necessities for the family.  The typical woman was busy at home, raising the children, providing meals, and responsible for most everything within the family's home.  

World War II opened the door to woman in the workforce

Many believe it was World War II which opened the door for change, because of the necessity for women to work outside of the home to help with the war effort.  Women kept our country operating smoothly and helped supply needed products for the war effort, proving themselves quite capable in accomplishing these goals.  Whatever was needed; whatever was required; women accomplished.  

As more women began entering the work force performing a variety of jobs heretofore held by men, a societal change began to evolve.  Many women did not want to go back to their former role as a homemaker, thus competition for positions erupted between the sexes. Many men also found it difficult to adjust to working side-by-side with women, especially after just returning from a horrendous war.  

Women who decided to stay home, the homemakers, were no longer rewarded with the same respect, but were largely marginalized. This, in turn, started a new trend in schools which stopped teaching girls to darn socks and prepare meals.  Instead, schools developed classes that taught the skills which better prepared girls to have careers. Girls graduating from high school were encouraged to go to college and were ultimately rewarded with positions that proved profitable.   

Following several decades of women in the workplace, society began to witness a downside, a backlash from women working at full time jobs.  Women were just as tired as their husbands in the evening and expected them to help with the meals, cleaning the house, and disciplining the children.  But women, now with their own jobs and paychecks, no longer had to depend on their husbands alone for their financial needs. These changes ignored time-honored traditions, and problems began to develop in the home.  

No-fault divorce changes society

As to why more problems didn’t develop earlier in eroding the family structure can be tied to divorce being difficult to attain.  There needed to be a proven “fault” that justified a divorce, such as adultery, abandonment, cruelty, intoxication or some other reason that was so significant there was little reason to expect an opportunity for reconciliation.  Accordingly, there existed a strong reason to reconcile differences and develop ways to work together for the good of the family.  

This changed on September 4, 1969, when California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Family Law Act of 1969 into law, thereby abolishing the "fault” grounds for divorce, replacing it with no-fault.  This meant there need not be a specific reason for divorce, thus making it simple and easy to divorce.  Divorce became affordable and sadly more popular.  

Changes in divorce laws explain part of why divorce was on the rise, but it does not tell the entire story.  America’s society had been rapidly changing.  Women with jobs and pay checks now had the independence to leave an unhappy marriage and still provide for themselves. Divorce became more common and subsequently more acceptable, as the guilt and fault of the old divorce laws were gone.  As more couples separated, divorce became a normal part of life.  Many couples who once would have remained married by working hard to resolve conflicts, now chose what seemed an easier approach: the divorce option.  These easy divorces may have provided a temporary satisfaction, but in the long term have proven to have some unintended social consequences:  

  • Cohabitation (living together) became more acceptable. 
  • Couples who lived together before marriage were more likely to divorce.
  • A divorced person who remarries after the divorce is much more likely to get divorced again.
  • Children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced as well.

“Latchkey kids” become common

Obviously the above do not apply to everyone, but we can credibly state problems have developed as women began spending more time at an outside job, rather than making her home a place secure for children.  “Latchkey kids” became common and they proved to be adversely affected when both parents worked eight hours a day outside of the home.  Their grades were below average, and they were more likely to drink alcohol and/or take harmful drugs. It is foolish to think children are immune to these decisions by their parents.  There is a strong feeling of security for children who have a parent waiting for them at home after a long day at school. They are more secure with established rules that are enforced daily.  Social workers attest these kids are more prone to engage in activities that prove problematic.    

For those of us who were raised in America during the years when most moms stayed home, we know, through experience, the warm comfort of our mom being home to greet and hug us and the positive value of having at least one parent available at any time of day.  It took a while for us to understand the wisdom of mom demanding we do our homework before we could invite a friend over, and we did always appreciate Dad enforcing every decision Mom made, but we later realized we were the lucky ones.  This system worked well, but in the society that exists today, many dismiss it as old-fashioned or at the very least not their choice.    

Replacement fertility rate declines with women in workforce

A new report in May of this year from the Centers for Disease Control says the U.S. birth rate is the lowest in 30 years.  Fertility rates are important for economic growth, cultural stability and more.   It wasn't always this way. It used to be taken for granted that the best indicator of a nation's health was its citizens' desire and capacity to reproduce.  It should still seem self-evident that people's willingness to have children is not only a sign of confidence in the future, but a sign of cultural health. It's a signal that people are willing to commit to the most enduring responsibility on Earth, which is raising a child.

Unfortunately, much of the world — especially most developed countries — have fallen below the "replacement" fertility rate. It takes 2.1 children per woman for a given generation to replace itself. U.S. births have been below replacement level since 2007. It can be debated whether this is cause for celebration or concern.

Immigration is a way countries counter sagging fertility rates. Immigrants tend to be young, and the babies they have bolster populations.  Immigration has kept the American population growing for 20 years, especially given the big influx of illegal immigrants and the practice of chain migration. 

But immigrants do change the country and has created social stress and unrest in places like France and the United Kingdom.  Sweden is expected to become a third world nation in 15 – 20 years, as Sweden’s suicidal Muslim immigration policies are driving the once safe and prosperous country off a cliff.  

Making motherhood valued and honored again

There are enormous advantages in following the historic pattern of Mom being a homemaker.  It gives children the gift of security and becomes a pattern for their own marriages.  America’s fate and future can be found in the quality, depth, and strength of its families across our country.   Intact families give us the pattern which will benefit further generations of Americans. Secure families are a key element in the prosperity of America.

Shifting attitudes about motherhood over the years, evident in today's millennials in their prime child-bearing years, has undoubtedly been partly responsible for this nation's low replacement fertility rate, as women with careers may be more inclined to put off child-bearing or have fewer children or none at all. The cost of working moms vs. stay-at-home-moms must also be considered. Child care alone could take a sizeable chunk of earned income.

Isn't it time for motherhood to be brought back as a valued and honorable profession unless conditions demand otherwise?  All of us are tasked with the responsibility to pass on this pattern to our loved ones.  It’s a key to success.  Stay-at-home Mom are often credited in keeping the family unit together which is necessary to keep America the great country our forefathers passed on to us.


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  1. This is so “right on true”. Staying home and raising your children is a privilege. As it is not an option for everyone because of financial struggles. We need to really think before we get caught up in believing we need two incomes coming in to afford all the stuff we think we just must have in order to live a comfortable life. Aren’t are children more important then that?
    One Fort Wayne Mom, Grandma and
    Great Grandma