Women Are Primary Breadwinners in 40% of Households, But Are They Happy?

woman at workAsk your favorite working mother how her day was. If she talks about her career, chances are, she's pretty happy with her life, according to a new report from Working Mother magazine. If she talks about her job, she's probably not.

Since women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of American families, it helps if they're happy. The study found moms who view their work as a career are happier in all aspects the survey measured -- marriage, kids, friendships, salary, respect they command and choice to work -- than women who work primarily for a paycheck.

"It always comes down to money. Everyone works for money," Carol Evans, Working Mother media president told AOL Jobs. "That is the primary reason we all work. But this has to do with your mindset. It didn't matter what their income was. It wasn't class related."


Surprising results

Among the findings:

  • Male managers are big supporters of working moms
  • While moms value flex time as a benefit, men are more likely than women to have jobs that allow for flexibility
  • Men and women feel ambivalence when wives out-earn their husbands.

Surprisingly, working mothers even reported that they would relocate for their careers, a point that impressed male managers.

"Male managers are having really good experiences with working mothers as employees. If a manager is a parent, male or female, they have even higher regards for working mothers as workers. As a parent, you really want to make it work," Evans said. "We saw negative feelings among people who don't have children. People without children are doubting if their employees could get it all done."


An age-old dispute '

According to the study, men report that they do their fair share at home, and women disagreed. It's the age-old dispute that has not changed, despite several generations of women in the work force. Evans says it's really a no-win situation.

"Men think they're doing more because they don't know what it takes to be fully responsible. If you talk to a single dad, he knows," Evans said. "Men don't really know what co-parenting means. As mothers, we want to be the moms. We want to be in charge and have it done our way. We're not letting go either."

Working Mother's results were right in line with a study out of Western Washington University, released in September 2010. In that report, female breadwinners were 40 percent more likely to divorce their partners. And a Cornell University study found that men who are out-earned by their wives were more likely to have extramarital affairs.

Oddly, men were more likely to have flexibility in their jobs. But working mothers are usually the ones who need the flex time for kids' doctors appointments, school trips and the like. While, anecdotally, men are proud to say they're going to a child's ballgame, they're also likely to use flex time for their own pursuits. Moms are not, and report that their career advancement will be hurt by taking a job with more flexibility.


The take-away

These results are not just fodder for dinner table discussion -- employers can better groom working moms for long careers if they take the right approach to help moms believe that they have potential.

According to Ad Age Insights, there are just now a half million more men in the work force than women, up from a 6 million gap just 10 years ago. With such a huge labor pool, employers can benefit from recognizing what working mothers bring to the table.

Next: Workplace Discrimination: Beauty Can be a Beast at Work >>

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