Mommy Wars: the 1970’s Through the 1990’s

July 2, 2013

 

Charlotte Pickles, Working Mother Extraordinaire

On the heels of second wave feminism, America saw a change in how women were responding to the pressure to stay at home. The decade before saw 60 percent of undergrad coeds drop out to marry (Eyer 55), so what changed?

As mentioned in a previous blog, in 1955 a full 60 percent of households maintained the ideal nuclear family. Three decades later only four percent of American households consisted of a breadwinner father and stay-at-home mother. Likewise, in the twenty years between 1973 and 1993, the average man’s salary decreased by fourteen percent.

By the mid-nineties, married women’s wages would account for a full two-thirds of income for two parent households; that number increases to 40 percent if she works full time (Eyer 32). Given that American families are increasingly dependent on the mother’s income, the choice to stay at home is becoming less and less of an option.

The media response to the fact that many women now have to work has sprouted two different arguments. The first was that yes, women needed to work; but no, they didn’t enjoy it. The second model suggest that women could in fact be housewives if they simply made a few sacrifices and learned to budget better (Eyer 11). Both these models make the assumption that mothers actually desired to give up their careers, and that they all fit into a middle-class, two parent model. Not only were women happy to be working, plenty of women were the sole wage earners or had families that otherwise depended on their income. For them, giving up their pay check would have meant more than just sacrificing the latest fashions, it would have meant sacrificing basic necessities.

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