THE BLOG
05/08/2014 02:00 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2014

Moms and Work: A Mother's Day State of the Union

Ah, Mother's Day. As it happens, my husband's birthday and my youngest son's birthday are two days apart, this year bookending Mother's Day, and simultaneously illustrating the fact that a mother's day is never really her own, designated or not. There's always work to do -- a mother's work, like planning special birthday events even when it's "supposed" to be my time to relax -- and for millions of mothers, also professional work.

Being a mom is definitely the most cherished accomplishment of my life, and I've learned that the old cliche that "they just grow up so quickly" is too damn true. I truly want to freeze them right now (at least for a few years). That being said, I'm also supremely thankful that I've been able to stay very active in my career. While there are days where I have almost collapsed under the weight of it all and having some sense of work-life "balance" is simply a lofty goal, on the whole I wouldn't change a thing. How can I say that with a straight face? Quite simply, it's thanks to work flexibility.

As the CEO and Founder of FlexJobs (a company I was crazy enough to start when I was pregnant with my first son), I'm intimately familiar with the flexible job market and arrangements like telecommuting, flexible schedules, professional part-time work, and freelance contracts. And the great news is that there are more flexible work opportunities than ever before, and in almost every industry and at every career-level. Which also means that it is more possible than ever for moms to find work that fits their lives. It's with that knowledge that I decided to start a campaign called 100 Days of Jobs for Moms, launching this week.

As part of our planning, we took a close look at the "State of the Union" for moms and work. Who's working? How are they balancing work and life? For moms who work "outside the home," what sorts of positives and negatives come with this dual commitment? And what can we learn from all the information out there? Here is the rundown:

The State of Moms in the Workforce:

According to the most recent Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just under 70 percent of all mothers with children aged 17 and younger participate in the U.S. labor force (either working or looking for work).

  • 57 percent of mothers with infants
  • 64 percent of mothers with children under six years old
  • 75 percent of mothers with children six to 17 years old

On the flipside of this, 30 percent of moms are stay-at-home moms, totaling 5 million SAHMs in the U.S. today.

Why Working Parents Work:

A survey of working parents last year asked why they are active in the workforce:

  • 67 percent said that they both "need" and "want" to work
  • 24 percent of working parents (both moms and dads) said that they "need" to work
  • 9 percent said they only "want" to work

Interestingly, working mothers are the breadwinners in almost half of American households. According to a 2013 Pew Research study, "mothers are now the primary (or sole) source of income for 40 percent of American households with children under 18 years of age."

Working Full-Time and Part-Time: Which Do Mothers Prefer?

Seventy-four percent of working mothers work full-time, with 26 percent working part-time, but when asked to describe their ideal work schedule, mothers report something different:

  • 44 percent of moms say they'd prefer to work a part-time schedule.
  • 9 percent would prefer to be stay-at-home moms full-time, rather than working outside the home.
  • Only 46 percent of current full-time working mothers consider their work schedule to be ideal.

The Effect of Work on Mothers, and Work on Mothers

Recently, a study of over 60,000 moms discovered that working mothers report being less worried, sad, stressed, angry, or depressed than stay-at-home moms. Working mothers across the board, whether part-time or full-time, tend to report higher satisfaction and lower stress.

It's not just work that affects mothers, but motherhood that affects work as well. It seems mothers are much more likely to seek out flexible work opportunities. The same survey of working parents mentioned above also found that of parents who want a flexible job (including telecommuting, part-time, flex schedule, or freelance) are overwhelmingly female (93 percent) and 79 percent are between 30-49 years old.

When a woman starts having children, studies show that this huge life change definitely affects her participation in the workforce. Forty-three percent of working women quit their jobs when they have children, so 57 percent keep their jobs and plan to keep working.

Of those who quit, 70 percent eventually return to work, but only 40 percent come back full-time.

The Meaning Behind These Stats

After culling through these statistics, and considering all the other statistics we see about moms at work, we started to see a trend. Whether mothers need to work, want to work, or both, ideal jobs for moms offer flexible work options. Not only that, those options can often mean the difference between a mom feeling accomplished or feeling guilty, whether it's at work or at home.

For stay-at-home moms, part-time telecommuting jobs open up a pathway to work that fits into the limited time they have available. For working mothers, flexible schedules help them attend school events and stay home with sick children without needing to worry about it hurting their professional prospects. For new moms, flexible work options help them come back to the workforce in a more balanced, less stressful way after maternity leave. And for moms who want to return to work after their kids have grown up, professional part-time jobs can ease that transition and expose them to new career opportunities.

This Mother's Day, let's take a moment to consider our day-to-day lives as woman, mothers, and professionals. We already know that being a mom is the toughest job in the world, but it's critical to also take stock of our accomplishments, to give ourselves the credit that we do the best we can do with the tools we have, to ask for help when we need it, and to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us. With all of that being said, many cheers to all of my fellow mommas out there. Happy Mother's Day to us all!