How stay-at-home moms hurt gender equality

stay at home wives back to work

When I push back against the stay-at-home mom fantasy — the myth that children fare better when mothers do not work, and that this lifestyle benefits anyone at all — I am often met with: “What do you care? We should respect all women's choices in the spirit of sisterhood!”


When women chose to stay home full-time, abandon career and earning, in the name of better mothering, or commitment to family, we all lose, most especially women.

Your choices affect me, and my choices affect you.

None of us live on an island. This is community and society and we are all intertwined. Choices matter, and when you make choices that hurt gender equality, I am hurt by that. All women, children and men are hurt by that. I am responsible to you, and vice versa.

I get the challenges. I appreciate very much that childcare is prohibitively expensive. I recoil at the fact that the United States has some of the worst maternal leave, child care, and health care policies when it comes to working parents. I work very hard in both my personal and professional lives to change that. I also understand very much the incredible social pressure to stay at home full time with children. This pressure is rooted in the misconception (some of the numerous relevant studies cited below) that this is what is best for children. I meet many women who make the decision to fully abandon their earning power and become dependent on husbands with genuine belief that this is what is good for their families. Many others leave the workforce because child care costs make employment unaffordable.

The United States needs vast policy change.

But votes and calls to legislators are not enough.

Each of us is called to make choices for our lives and families that aim for the greater good — including equality for all people. The more educated you are, the more money, access, privilege you have, the more responsibility you have to others to live a life that pushes the envelope for positive change in the world.

That includes working for money.

13 ways gender equality is hurt because women choose not to work

1. You model a stereotypical female roles, which informs your children, spouse, friends and neighbors

If you, woman, are home, your children equate housekeeping, child care and other unpaid ‘women's work' with women. They see their father, a man, earn in the world. That informs their ideas about gender and what is expected of women and men. That is why Harvard professor Kathleen McGinn found, in her study of 34,000 people across 24 countries, that girls raised by mothers who worked outside the home for pay, achieved more academically and grew up to be women who achieved more professionally and financially than their peers who had stay-at-home moms. Boys raised by working moms were more caring for children and older people living in the home than their SAHM peers, and grew up to be men who were the same — all while achieving as much academically and professionally as those raised by SAHMs. In short: kids grow up to be what they see.

2. Stay-at-home moms influence sexism in workplaces

Men — especially the white variety — still very much control corporate and government policy, and are far more likely to advocate for policy that supports working parents if they themselves share in family responsibility because their wives work, too. Researchers at Harvard, NYU and University of Utah found:

“Employed husbands in traditional marriages, compared to those in modern marriages, tend to (a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion.”

3. Stay-at-home moms hurt the economy

When you do not participate in the labor force, the world misses out on your unique talents

Recent headlines such as “Closing the gender gap could grow the economy by $2.1 trillion” (CNN) scream that the best way to grow the economy is to better engage women in the professional world. You consumed educational resources that were designed for the benefit of all of society. You worked hard to earn positions, raises or build a business. When you drop out for any significant period, all those collective skills and network are paused — or tossed out. That is a brain drain that we, as a society and world, cannot afford to lose.

4. The choice to stay home with children hurts the hiring and promotion of other women

Your departure from the workforce discourages managers and companies from hiring, training and promoting women since it sets the precedence that women of a certain age will just drop out indefinitely to have babies. Read: “Motherhood Penalty Affects Women Who Never Have a Child”(NBC).

5. Staying home with kids means you abandon the women who stay and fight for equality

My friend Maria, a divorced mom, has fought her way into an executive position at the male-dominated accounting industry where she's worked for 22 years. She told me: “Every time a woman in my company drops out to stay home and ‘be a mom,' I want to scream. I think, ‘I and every other woman in this big company need you to be here in these meetings and fight for them.' I feel let down and, frankly, abandoned. They left me here to fight alone.”

6. Stay-at-home moms shame working moms

Culturally, Americans believe children need stay-at-home moms. Pew found that 60 percent of Americans believe it is best for kids when a parent is home full-time, and a full 40 percent of Americans say that children are harmed (!) when mothers work outside the home. A full 70 percent of U.S. mothers work, and the majority of those who do not would like to work, but do not because child care is so prohibitive, studies find. The majority of moms who work do so because they need to eat, and their children need to eat — not because it is a lifestyle choice. In other words,

When women say, “I don't want to go back to work because I love my children,” that means, “I love my children more than you do. I am a better mom.” We all love our children. Here a very important fact you need to hear right now:

The University of Maryland’s very important meta-study, “How Does the Amount of Time Mothers Spend with Children Matter?” found that for children ages 2 to 11, it makes no difference the number of hours a mother spends with her when it comes to the child’s academic or psychological success.

7. Stay-home moms perpetuate the myth that motherhood is enough to fulfill us

Instead, here are studies that show that mothers who work are happier and healthier, and less sad and angry, than their peers who work for pay. This is old news. Betty Friedan's 1963 blockbuster The Feminine Mystique established this five decades ago. We are having the exact emotion vs fact debate today. Let's move this conversation forward.

8. Stay-at-home moms are more prone to poverty

Whether you stay married for the rest of your life, divorce, or your spouse passes away before you do (statistically likely), you are more likely to be poor. A financial plan in which an entire family is dependent on one income is simply bad planning. After all, you know you should buy life insurance in the unlikely event that you or your partner dies. The chances of that happening are far, far lower than divorce, disability, illness or unemployment — all situations in which a second career could mean the difference between staying in your home or living out of your car. The fewer women living in poverty means good things for all women — and members of the world.

[You cannot afford to be a stay-at-home mom — and flexible careers that help you have it all]

9. Women who do not work are less likely to be involved in family finances

Knowing everything about your household finances is critical in the event that you divorce, or otherwise are forced to manage the money in the absence of your spouse (he becomes disabled, unemployed, dies, is incarcerated or any other horrible things that happen every single day). One study found that women's involvement in household finances is directly proportionate to their contribution to family income. In other words, the more a woman contributes to the family finances, the more involved she is with managing them.

The more involved a woman is with managing money, the more security she and her whole family have. this contributes to making wiser, empowered decisions, and being safe in every sense of the word.

10. Women who do not earn their own money are more likely to suffer domestic violence

A full THIRD of U.S. women will be abuse victims at the hands of an intimate partner, and in 99 percent of those cases, financial abuse is part of the equation. You are in physical, emotional and sexual danger when you do not have your own money.

11. When you divorce, stay-at-home wives and moms are screwed

You have the same ~50 percent chance as the rest of us (though some studies suggest the divorce rate is higher in marriages when one spouse is financially dependent on the other) . Alimony reform is underway in every state, and while you may get short-term maintenance (think about that term: a man who you are no longer involved with is forced to maintain you), you are now expected to earn a living. Statistically women wind up poorer after divorce than men — typically because we have less earning power to start with. Take away any recent work experience, you are s-c-r-e-w-e-d. Read: Why you should never depend on alimony

The challenges for divorced women with no recent work history run deep. Want to keep your house in your name? Without two years work history, you can't get a mortgage. You also likely can't get a car loan or credit card with a decent interest rate. In short: the pay gap, wealth gap and women's choices overall plummet without earning power.

12. When women stop working, you have far fewer choices, and we all lose.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a woman’s earnings drop 30 percent after being out of the workforce for two to three years. This calculator created by the Center for American Progress projects the potential impact to a woman’s lifetime earnings when she takes a break mid-career. A 26-year-old woman earning $50,000 per year stands to lose more than $800,000 in wages, raises and retirement benefits over her lifetime when she steps off the career path for just five years. You also can't get a decent car loan or credit card or mortgage.

13. SAHMs' post-divorce / separation life is tumultuous

When you are in financial straits post-divorce/separation, you are understandably afraid, and acting in fear leads to bad decisions and poor behavior. Any family attorney or divorce court judge will tell you that terrified women and angry men then spend a lot of very contentious time and lots of money with lawyers and judges arguing over money. This conflict bleeds deeply into your co-parenting. It is impossible to share parenting time and decisions in a healthy way if you are duking it out in court. Your children suffer the most. These are the same children who were supposed to benefit from the countless hours you spent with them at home.

As a citizen, I am affected because courts are jammed up with petty arguing over custody and alimony, while actual abuse and neglect cases are marginalized. As a society, we all suffer, because statistically, when men are marginalized in custody cases — and they are in 80 percent of cases that go to court, in favor of giving mothers primary custody, despite 55 reviewed studies that prove that equally shared time with kids is best for children, once again following in those gender-stereotype  — they tend to drop out of kids' lives all together. This is good for no one. Not you, not me, not the kids, dads or penal systems, which are full of kids who did not grow up with involved dads. Ladies, be part of the solution.

[Going through a breakup now? What to ask for in a divorce … ]

How to raise girls who are independent and strong

I keep hearing the same story again and again from professionally successful women. Variations on:

My grandma told me: “Always have your own money.”

It could be a mother, aunt, neighbor, Girl Scout leader, teacher, cousin, mentor or favorite coach.

What to teach girls about money

An older, respected woman looked her straight in the eye, and in her own but direct way said:

  • “Do not ever depend on a man financially.”
  • “Money is power, and never, ever give up that power.”
  • “You are powerful. Never chose to give up that power.”
  • “You are responsible for your own life.”
  • “You are not a victim.”
  • “I believe in you.”

Many of the women who tell me these stories are in their 40s, 50s and older, and their champions were women of a generation or two more senior than that. This is important because it is clear that women found ways to be financially independent — whether through work, or even squirreling away cash in their own name or shoebox in the back of a closet — even if they had but a fraction of the economic and career opportunity you and I enjoy.

They got it. And they made sure that the women who came after them got it, too.

Somehow, we have not collectively gotten it. By ‘it,' I mean the giant, enormous pressure for women to be stay-at-home moms and abandon their financial power, and therefore, their autonomy as adults.

[How to teach kids about money — at any age]

The simple truth about the gender pay gap

There is a lot of pressure on women in the workforce to forsake their economic power en lieu of family.

Pew found that an astonishing 40 percent of Americans believe that children suffer when their mother works outside of the home. And study after study finds that the 21% gender paygap is a result not of rich white men in C-suits keeping competent women down, but rather women choosing to compromise their careers to care for loved ones. This pressure is so great that women who actually earn a living, falsely label themselves “stay-at-home moms.”

A recent project between my friend time management expert Laura Vanderkam and Redbook magazine found that 62% of described stay-at-home moms contributed to their household income, including 25% who run businesses. I know a blogger who earns $80,000 per year and calls herself a stay-at-home mom — a disconnect that is both common destructive, since it perpetuates the economically oppressive pressure to abandon our livelihoods and lives for our children and husbands.

Meanwhile, all research confirms: It makes zero difference how much time a parent spends with a kid after age 2, and the greatest indicators of a child's future wellbeing is her mother's education and income level.

Let us not forget: Working mothers are far less prone to depression and anxiety, and divorce rates are 50% higher for families in which one spouse does not work.

In other words: We glamorize stay-at-home moms, when science proves again and again that everyone is happier, healthier and more financially secure when both parents work.

After all: Divorce rates have been more or less steady at 50% for 40 years. The other 50% of couples? Unemployment, disability, death and other catastrophes mean a one-career family is a precarious financially agreement indeed. And when these families do divorce or separate, the new paradigm is likely to be very sexist indeed, with the mom having primary care of the kids, and being financially dependent on her ex's child support and/or alimony payments. Which is why I wrote this guide on how to divorce like a feminist.

Listen to my podcast episode on this topic:

Breaking the cycle of the wage gap

So this is what you will do to make sure we break this cycle of women sabotaging their own wellbeing, and that of their children, marriage and for women and society overall:

You will identify a girl. Maybe it is your daughter, or granddaughter. Niece, student, mentee or neighbor. She might be 6 or 16 or a young woman of 26. You will tell her with zero nuance or caveat:

Always have your own money. 

Never give up your ability to earn.

You are not an adult if you chose to be financially dependent on another person. 

In my research, I have found it only takes telling a young person this critical message one time. The message taps into such a primal, visceral need for freedom, power and independence, even very young girls understand it intuitively.

But do not tell her just one time. Tell her again and again. Like you make sure your child knows to be kind, and say thank you and not to chew with her mouth open. Just as you make sure that young people know how to swim and must eat vegetables, this is a non-negotiable.

Knowing this shapes the life decisions you make

Because when a child is raised to reap the magnificent bounty that is the education, professional, political and financial equality that women in this country in 2018 enjoy, and understand that she will never, ever chart her own course in this world until she embraces it as her duty to exercise it in its fullest, you set her on a certain course. On the right course. It is a course that affects every single vertical of her life:

  • The choices she makes in where she attends college, and how she will pay for it (because when you are wise about your education and related finances, and do not assume that a man will take care of you and your debt eventually, you make better choices).
  • The career path she pursues.
  • The relationships she forges with friends and colleagues (because these are the spine of her entire life).
  • The money she does and does not spend on fun.
  • The money she does and does not invest.
  • The partner she selects (or rejects).
  • The children she choses to have (or not).
  • The age she chooses to become a mother.
  • The way she sees herself in the world, the value she brings to her partner, her children, friends, and the world around her. 

By saying: “Always have your own money,” to a girl you are saying:

“You are powerful. And I believe that you will never, ever give up that power.”

She gets it. She will thank you. And women everywhere, forever, will thank you.

Did an older woman inspire you to always have your own money? Share your important story in the comments.

How SAHMs can find high-paid work-at-home jobs

Looking for a real career that you can do from home, full- or part-time? Thanks to technology and a changing work culture that values parents and is happy to offer flexible, temp, telecommute, remote and other work-at-home opportunities, there are countless quality, legit jobs and careers that pay well, and also provide the flexibility to spend time with your family, working out, build a side gig, or otherwise enjoy life.

In fact, working from home tops my gratitude list most days, as it has allowed me to devote concentrated sums of time building a business that I love, pays well, and allows me to spend as much (or little! Let's e real here!) time with my kids as I need to.

This is my list of top, high-paying careers that you can do from home.

The list includes: programmer / coder, graphic designer, translator, virtual assistant, social media manager, corporate event and travel planner, bookkeeper, child care provider, blogger and grant writer.

My favorite job board for moms is FlexJobs — the leading job site specifically for telecommuting, part-time, flexible-time, online, work from home, and other alternative work arrangements that make such a big difference in families’ lives.

FlexJobs was started by Sara Sutton-Fell, a real-life mom who wanted to work from home, earn a good living, and spend time with her family.

Quick facts about FlexJobs:

  • Huge database of screened and vetted (no scams!) temp, part-time, full-time, remote, online and other work-at-home jobs. At time of writing, FlexJobs posted:
    • 32,686 positions
    • 5,594 hiring companies
  • Extremely reputable:
    • Better Business Bureau A+ rating
    • Appearances in the Oprah magazine, Inc., Good Morning America, USAToday, Washington Post, New York Times, and ;)
    • Every company in FlexJob's database has been screened by hand, and found to be legitimate.
    • Job posts and featured hiring companies are hand-vetted by FlexJobs employees. Many of the postings are by Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 jobs.
  • Affordable pricing:
    • $14.95 / month
    • $29.95 / quarter
    • $49.95 / year
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee — cancel anytime, and get a refund if you are not happy with the job selection
  • Easy-to-use site
    • Go to (use promo code FLEXLIFE)
    • Browse for free
    •  When you become a member, you can create a profile, upload a resume, and interact directly with hiring managers
    •  FlexJobs suggests postings for you based on your preferences and resume
    • Search by newest postings

If you need fast, extra cash (not necessarily a new job or career), here is my list of 101 ways to make extra cash, quick. Advice includes easy ways to sell things you have, the best online survey companies, online English tutoring, and rent stuff you own, like your home or car.

Related post on gender equality and divorce

Close the pay gap? Get dads involved? Shared visitation, no child support

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.  Find out Emma's top Single Mom Resources here.


  1. Rene on November 8, 2019 at 8:26 am

    A great article. You raised many good point supported with evidence. There is a lot of pressure on women to have children and to be stay at home moms or feel guilt about not doing so. I for one, had a stay at home mother and really wish she would have gotten a job. It would have been so much better for the whole family if she had had a job outside her home for many, many reasons. I for one, would have had a much better role model and later probably a better relationship with her when I started my own work life. As a working woman, I have very little in common with my mother and our relationship is just civil, but we are not close. I intend to keep my job and autonomy and be a very different kind of role model for the children in our family.

    I can see a lot of negativity and misunderstandings in the comments You were very, very brave to write this, but it should be discussed.
    Thanks again.

  2. Athena on October 28, 2019 at 3:34 am

    What about kids under 2? How much time should we spend with them to give them what they need?

  3. Aubrie on July 3, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    This is the dumbest article. I am so thankful to be a stay at home mom. Raising a 10 month old and being 6 months pregnant is exhausting. I dont know how I would survive if I had to rush my kid off to daycare and work all day then come home exhausted to a grumpy and tired kid.

    Staying home has kept my child healthier, happier and more content. He and I have really formed a strong bond. He loves to snuggle up with me during naps and I wont complain! I’ll take all the snuggles I can get. They dont last forever.

    I am the one who decided to have children. They are my responsibility. So, why would i want to drop my little one off at daycare into the hands of a stranger to raise? The kids are mine and by having them I decided to take on the responsibility to care for them. I couldnt imagine putting my baby in daycare.

    Being at home means I know the care my children receive. I’m in control of their schedules and they have the freedom to choose when to nap and eat. They can freely play and relax in the comfort of their home. They feel safer and I know they are not being bullied or being forced to sit in soiled diapers.

    Your children are what matters most. Their wellbeing is all that matters. Listening to a stupid feminist society should be the last thing on your mind. You are really going to put a bunch of pink hat wearing parading women before your own children? Who cares what they think. Motherhood is a gift. Children are a blessing from God. Taking care of them and raising them right should be top priority.

  4. Tammie on March 26, 2019 at 6:46 am

    Fyi-we were neighbors, I lived on the “sandwich side” of lake holiday from 1984-1991…so howdy ole neighbor :-)

  5. Tammie on March 26, 2019 at 6:13 am

    I can make a case for working mother’s destroying the economy, can even cite studies, will that change how you live your life??

    Yeah, didn’t think so.

    However, just simple common sense will tell you that if one parent in each household leaves the workforce for 15-25yrs, there are now more open jobs, leading to lower unemployment, & therefore higher pay for those who choose not to have children or the working parent in the household.

    Through several anthropologic & archeologic projects, internships, & research, my oldest daughter can tell you that loss of gender identity & gender roles has been the downfall of almost every civilization in history! That’s a scary thought!!

    Not to mention that i can typically pick out all of the daycare kids on the playground…there IS a difference!

    As for those denigrating volunteer work by stay at home mom’s, you truly should be ashamed of yourselves!! It is amazing that we have talented and compassionate people willing to expend their resources to selflessly help others-while all of society benefits from their efforts, & their children learn wonderful humanitarian lessons!!

    Not to mention, what about personal choice??? I have 5 kiddos, 4 daughters, my oldest is just starting school to enter the world of law/politics(after internships in anthropology, archeology, politics, law, geology, & paleontology, plus many many community volunteer hours…all made possible because I am a SAHM & she choose to be homeschooled). She made this decision in part to be able to dictate a career that will allow flexible employment when she has children as she recognizes the importance of having a parent always there for you, but also thinks she wants to work-she isn’t 100% yet…ps she will work, mom knows. (#2 is a boy-who wants his wife to choose, but hopes she wants to stay home since he is on his way to becoming a pilot-if she chooses to work, he is hoping they will live near one of us to help with their kids.) #3 is head strong & still young, but i have a feeling she will follow close to #1s footsteps, for now she just wants to be an olympic gymnast & have me change all her baby’s poopy diapers(honestly, this is the one that may never have kids-&that’s an ok choice too!! :-)). #4 is a different type of kid, she is a nurturer & it would likely hurt her deeply to have to work and be away from her children. She will be happiest as a wife & mother. The type that throws together grand last minute dinner parties, hosts all the neighborhood kids, & can dance backwards in high heels all night long ;-) #5 is head strong, tough, & is the one that will either have a house husband or maybe want to be a force in her career & submissive at home-it could go either way.

    My point in this is that all people, all women/girls are different, with different priorities, hopes, dreams, & ultimately different paths…they are all valid paths!! Me being a stay at home mom did not negatively impact my children, if anything it made them more cognizant about their choices & the future impacts, realizing that they wanted the flexibility to do both! To stay home AND work :-)

    Most of us stay at home moms tell our children(even our daughters)that they can be anything they want to be!! Whether that anything is a working mom or a stay at home mom or President of the united states, because we believe in a woman’s right to choose her own path in life!!! And most of us will be right there beside our children/daughters to help and encourage them through their chosen path!! I cannot ever imagine limiting my daughters choices as you have!!

    The real questions…
    Would you think less of your daughter if she chose to be a SAHM??? How about your son if he & his wife decide for one of them to stay home??

    Just food for thought.

    • Katherine on June 5, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      Simple common sense will tell you that we can’t have equal numbers without equal participation. So we can’t have it both. It’s really as simple as that. If a woman does leave her career to support her family … she can’t expect there to be an equal number of female leadership in her career when she jumps back in (or if her daughters decide to work). And if leadership is all men … she can’t expect there to NOT be a glass ceiling. She can’t expect her daughter NOT to get harassed or told to smile more or propositioned. Because she is not there to protect her. I don’t make the rules. Reality’s sucks, doesn’t it?

      Check yourself before ripping a woman who is fighting the battle for your daughters on your behalf.

      • Will on August 6, 2019 at 8:01 pm

        It looks like Tammie wants to do the fighting for her own daughters. What a novel concept?!?! It doesn’t look like she needs you, or anyone else, to do the fighting for her, or her family. Simple common sense will tell you that identity politics aren’t what drive strong economies. All they drive is bigotry. Check yourself before ripping a woman, simply for being making her own decisions.

    • Melinda on July 1, 2019 at 6:12 pm

      Thank you for your response! I hold a Masters in Education K-12 School Counseling. I worked in public K-12 schools for 7 yrs, taught at the college level for 5 years and for the 1 1/2 yrs I have been the Director of a Childcare Center. While teaching college, I was able to work part time and raise our daughter. I was not able to stay at home when my son was born. I have been a full time worki g mom watching someone else raise my child and watched my child get what was left of me at the end of the day. I have been the part time working mom who enjoyed spending time with my child, raising my child, volunteering, pouring time into hurting friends and having time to do things as a family. These past 2 1/2 yrs have been rough working full time (40-60 a week) pouring myself into other people’s children, teaching and training staff to only have them leave within 6months, dealing with the daily “guilt ridden” mom who feels bad that she has to work and leave her child at childcare, fighting the historical “babysitting ” mentality of everyone, yet trying to assure that children’s developmental needs are being met through our program. All the while, my children are getting what is left of me at the end of a very hard day.

      Long story short, I was not made to work like this. I’m a giver, a helper a nurturer. I want to stay home, yet society frowns upon it. I want to assure that my children, family and home is taken care of. There are things I can do to bring in money to help my husband, but I believe the best help I can be to him IS by being home. The only way two working parents work is if BOTH take on home responsibilities, which doesn’t always happen.

      To claim that stay at home mom’s are increasing the pay gap and gender inequality is just ludicrous! Why is moeny aleays the most important? If a woman xhooses to make her career her life, then you better have a great husband whonis willing to help out with the kids and the house, otherwise, don’t have kids!! It’s not fair to a child to be raised by childcare centers. I’m glad there are people out there that love kiddos, but unless you are sending your child to a center with degree holding teachers and childcare providers, STAY HOME! There is tons of research to show the detriment to child development and increased long term societal burden of low level care childcare/daycare.

      So, societal burden and long term effects???? Let’s look at all sides and let’s women stop being so selfish. When you chose to marry, have kids, or just have kids regardless of marital status, you have lost the right to be selfish.

  6. Grayce on March 21, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    I hope that Emma can read my comment before it gets removed. As an educated, intelligent strong-willed mother I find your judgement and generalizations disgusting. If I could speak to your face the only thing I would say is FUCK YOU!

    • Katherine on June 5, 2019 at 7:12 pm

      That didn’t sound very intelligent or educated.

      • Onoir on October 1, 2019 at 1:08 pm

        Some research shows that people who use profanity are happier, healthier, and more intelligent than those who don’t. :)

  7. Annie Frostenson on March 21, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    I commend you for your hard work and being a single mom. And thank you for writing this article because it’s a conversation we all need to be a part of. Whatever your gender. You know what? You can’t make people believe your truth and vice versa. Emma wants to live her life according to scientific studies. So what? She is killing it according to what she believes to be important and live by. She bases her truth on what she is being ztold by science. That is her right to do so. Basically any of us can find scientific studies to help wage our war. It is unfortunate that this article and other recent movements are forcing women to fight against each other. But maybe it’s time for women to divide and conquer. How else can such a varied and great population reach equality: “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” This article is only focusing on status. What about my rights? My opportunities? Opportunities will always mean something different among women because we all have different interests, skills and principles. It’s our right. So, I don’t think the answer here is for women to join the workforce even if it means being a cog. It’s more complex than that, just like women. A good place to start might be mutual respect. But what do I know? I’m just a SAHM who creates shame in other women apparently.
    To be clear, I am at home, full time with my children, I run our finances, have never been close to being abused by any definition, could go get a decent job at any point, have an amazing and honest relationship with my husband who only encourages and respects my growth as an individual–what else? Oh and I cannot control what other women think or feel based on how I choose to live my life. No one can.

    • Katherine on June 5, 2019 at 7:13 pm

      We can’t have equal numbers without equal participation. So we can’t have it both. It’s really as simple as that. If a woman does leave her career to support her family … she can’t expect there to be an equal number of female leadership in her career when she jumps back in (or if her daughters decide to work). And if leadership is all men … she can’t expect there to NOT be a glass ceiling. She can’t expect her daughter NOT to get harassed or told to smile more or propositioned. Because she is not there to protect her. I don’t make the rules. Reality’s sucks, doesn’t it?

  8. Austin on February 18, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    So what if I’m perpetuating stereotypical gender roles? Is that inherently bad or something? Just the idea that if something is a stereotype it’s bad and should be changed. I could never wrap my head around that.
    Also, this woman’s #1 priority is money.
    That’s what she cares about and it shows in her blog posts.
    And she said in one of her comments something along the lines of, “you’re doing what’s best for your family at the cost of gender equality.”
    This woman is truly off her rocker.

    • Melinda Norton on July 1, 2019 at 6:14 pm


  9. Madison on January 31, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    You know, since you’re sooo concerned with societal outcomes and children’s long term successes, maybe you could start worrying and writing about the statistical and social disadvantages of children in single mother households. I feel like that’s a much more dire (and well documented!) problem in our society than this “force yourself into a life you don’t want in the name of my definition of feminism” garbage you’re writing to make yourself feel better about the fact that *your* kids are the ones more likely to have emotional and behavioral disorders and be incarcerated. Worry about your own life and choices before you start shaming people for simply raising healthy, well balanced children.

    • Rene on November 8, 2019 at 8:15 am

      Nonsense. Single mothers can and do raise perfectly healthy normal children. They are often good role models for their kids too. She was just presenting other sides to the argument and some well documented stats here. You are being judgemental here. If you didn’t like the article, why didn’t you just skip it

  10. Nik on February 23, 2018 at 8:07 am


    • Khatera Rahmani on December 13, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      Thank you thank you thank you! Ughhh SAHMs make me very angry also. Anyone who takes issue with this post needs to stop and ask, if all things are “equal”, why aren’t there stay at home dad’s in equal numbers as mom’s? Why do women set themselves for this garbage, to accept that their earning power should be less? If you say, well my husband made more money, please stop and ask yourself WHY? Why do women make less? Why did your wife decide to quit her job and let you keep yours? Ughh.. I especially can’t stand the “Mrs Degrees” women get. I also cringe when I learn they do volunteer work… If you have time to volunteer, you have time for a job. Stop perpetuating 1950s gender norms. And no, I think kids with stay at home mom’s learn it’s okay to make the same bullshit decisions.

      • Rene on November 8, 2019 at 8:10 am

        Couldn’t agree with you more. Seems she trod on a few toes, but glad to see some of us got it.

  11. Anon on February 22, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Here is an unbiased article on the topic.

  12. Amber on February 22, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    As a working mother I am embarrassed by this article. SAHMs please know that the majority of working mothers absolutely do not blame you for workplace inequality and think you are doing just fine with your kids. Sheesh.

  13. anonymous on February 22, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Ironic that Emma rails against staying home, yet she has links for jobs that let you *gasp* work from home!!! As for the chick in #5 (whining about women leaving her to fight the battle alone while they choose to stay home), these women have an obligation to their family, not you. If Maria really cared about these women fighting along side her why not offer them a work at home position?

    • Emma on February 23, 2018 at 8:23 am

      Working at home is not a stay at home mom. I have run a business out of my home for 12 years.

  14. Megan Plumley on February 22, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    I’m sorry but your are deeply misguided. What hurts society is telling any parent what they can and can not do as a parent. Some dads make great SAHDs. Some moms make great SAHMs. And sometimes both parents work. Their choices on how to run their family aren’t holding anyone back.

    • Emma on February 23, 2018 at 8:41 am

      If I wrote an article that said: “10 ways your car destroys the environment” you likely would not argue, and continue driving your car (I would). Just because this research makes you uncomfortable does not render it incorrect.

    • Katherine on June 5, 2019 at 7:24 pm

      Simple common sense will tell you that we can’t have equal numbers without equal participation. So we can’t have it both. It’s really as simple as that. If a woman does leave her career to support her family … she can’t expect there to be an equal number of female leadership in her career when she jumps back in (or if her daughters decide to work). And if leadership is all men … she can’t expect there to NOT be a glass ceiling. She can’t expect her daughter NOT to get harassed or told to smile more or propositioned. Because she is not there to protect her. I don’t make the rules. Reality sucks, doesn’t it?

  15. Holly S on February 22, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    What a load of horse sh*t. I suppose anyone can cherry pick information to prove a point, eh? I’m glad you’re happy working outside the home. I’m happy as a stay-at-home mom. True feminism means that we both have the option to do what makes us feel fulfilled. ;)

    • Katherine on June 5, 2019 at 7:27 pm

      Simple common sense will tell you that we can’t have equal numbers without equal participation. So we can’t have it both. It’s really as simple as that. If a woman does leave her career to support her family … she can’t expect there to be an equal number of female leadership in her career when she jumps back in (or if her daughters decide to work). And if leadership is all men … she can’t expect there to NOT be a glass ceiling. She can’t expect her daughter NOT to get harassed or told to smile more or propositioned. Because she is not there to protect her (We have all the evidence in the world that men do not protect women). I don’t make the rules. Reality sucks, doesn’t it?

  16. Andy on February 22, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    The title of this article should be “How Having a narrow view of success hurts gender equality”

  17. Beth on February 22, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    This is the most one sided anti-woman thing I have ever read. Clearly clickbait because no one could be this ignorant.

  18. Bobbi Mercer on February 22, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Emma- is it ok for fathers to stay home with their children?

    • Emma on February 23, 2018 at 8:22 am

      The goal is for autonomy and independence for both genders. The goal is gender equality. That is impossible when anyone give up their earning power.

      • Curious working mom on April 9, 2019 at 10:02 pm

        Define “gender equality.”

  19. Steph on February 22, 2018 at 11:19 am

    “You can grow up to be anything you want, dear daughter, because you are strong and smart and talented…except be a stay at home mommy.”

    • Emma on February 22, 2018 at 11:29 am

      I think we would all agree on a long list of things we would not want our daughters to be: dependent, abused, depressed, poor, just to name a few.

      • Ellie on February 22, 2018 at 1:44 pm

        ALL stay at home moms are “dependent, abused, depressed, poor”? Can you site that statistic, Emma? Or are you just speaking from your experience?

        • Emma on February 23, 2018 at 8:43 am

          No research finds absolutes.

    • Katherine on June 5, 2019 at 7:29 pm

      Simple common sense will tell you that we can’t have equal numbers without equal participation. So we can’t have it both. It’s really as simple as that. If a woman does leave her career to support her family … she can’t expect there to be an equal number of female leadership in her career when she jumps back in (or if her daughters decide to work). And if leadership is all men … she can’t expect there to NOT be a glass ceiling. She can’t expect her daughter NOT to get harassed or told to smile more or propositioned. Because she is not there to protect her. I don’t make the rules. Reality’s sucks, doesn’t it?

      So no. If women continue to drop out of the workforce… she can’t.

  20. Steveark on February 22, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Yikes Emma, sorry, I didn’t mean to start a war here. As I said I appreciate your body of work and learn from it regularly. I’ll have to think about your reply in spite of my natural tendency to argue.

    • Emma on February 22, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Debate welcome.

  21. Danielle Nelsen on February 22, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Am I a feminist because I’m a 39 year old single mother who has never been married? If I got married tomorrow and happily threw a quiche in the oven to bake while knitting some massive doily for the couch, would I be abandoning that identity and “perpetuating stereotypical gender roles?” What if I like to fucking knit (I do)?

    I am a feminist *who just happens to be* a 39 year old single mother who has never been married, not BECAUSE of it. I am presently not be perpetuating a stereotypical gender role but I reserve my right to move to Stepford if I want to. Or I can bake in the city.

    Feminism – the movement, the revolution, the idea (or what have you) – has provided us (women) with the powerful and apparently controversial thing in life called choice. The choice of whether or not we want to be barefoot housewives and mothers, as well as the right to happily be both, one, none, or more. It has widened our opportunities to be all that we dream, but most importantly, it insists that women not be confined to certain identities only.

    There are plenty of people who believe we should still be confined to certain identities, and this author seems to be one of them. It’s up to all of us to continue to assure that we are not, and I think perhaps we start with explaining what feminism actually means to those who claim to be a feminist. (Spoiler Alert: No where in the definition does it include, “hating men.”)

    • Emma on February 22, 2018 at 10:56 am

      All this choice is worthless if it is made under false assumptions, primarily that full-time at-home mothers are good for anyone, when in fact that myth creates dangerous dependency.

      • Megan Plumley on February 22, 2018 at 8:44 pm

        How is it not good for a child to have constant access to their caregiver?

        Especially if that caregiver doubles as their food source?

        I really didn’t think this level of ignorance was possible.

        • Emma on February 23, 2018 at 8:40 am

          I am referencing the science. With the exception of the past century, women have always worked outside the home, typically in fields, with a village of caregivers looked after young children – and older children often worked.

    • Megan Plumley on February 22, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      I’ve been the full time working single mom and I am now the SAHM. Working was the easier job as raising my kids is way more work. But I’m way happier to be able to raise them instead of only seeing them a few hours a week. So the person it benefits is ME. My life is happier.

  22. Ellen on February 22, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Emma you are a badass! I am so glad that you have the courage to write things (backed up by science) that inevitably bring on so much hate. These commenters are angry AF. My girls call work like yours MamaDiva work – because only Moms are brave enough and hard-working enough to do it. <3

    • Emma on February 22, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Thank you Ellen :)

    • Danielle on February 22, 2018 at 4:05 pm


  23. Samantha Moutrey on February 21, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    You mention that some mothers stay home because childcare is expensive. Ok. You did not once discuss that some women *want* to raise their children full time. No woman should be told what her role in her home or society is. That’s what women have been fighting for for decades. They right to do what *they* want to do.

    Also, it is very strange that you repeatedly state *when* you get a divorce not *if* you get a divorce.

    What about stay at home fathers?

    Most alarmingly, you seem to be placing blame for women’s inequality in the workplace on WOMEN, instead of their employers. That’s sexism at its finest.

    You also fail to understand the overall picture behind these statistics. Yes, studies show children of working mothers have slightly better outcomes. Obviously this does not mean that children of stay at home parents are inherently worse of because there are hundreds of thousands of examples of successful happy children whose mothers stayed home, but more importantly, this is a correlation not a causation. More mothers in poverty stay home because of limitations that you mentioned. Children in poverty are more likely to have negative outcomes. The elements that actually impact childhood outcomes are poverty, abuse,and parental involvement. Trying to make the case that a loving family who chooses (because women should have choices, remember that part?) to have a parent stay home and is financially stable and involved in their children’s lives is inherently putting them at risk for lower quality lives is flawed research. The biggest rule if research is correlation does not equal causation.

    I know some mothers who must work want comfort in thinking their way is better and that their children will thrive. They probably will, because you care. But not specifically because you work. That is presumptuous and honestly pretty vile.

    I have an advanced degree and my family has gone through periods where my husband was the stay at home parent and periods where I was. I would never spew the hate and misinformation towards working mothers that you just did for mothers staying home. I’m really sorry you feel like you have to prove your love like this. We are all doing what we decided was best for our families.

    • Emma on February 22, 2018 at 11:28 am

      What is the “misinformation”? This is all fact-based opinions, research cited. Yes, you are doing what you believe is best for your family, at the expense of gender equality. I don’t see any room to argue here, except that you have not thought about the points I make and research I cite and your feelings are hurt. Discomfort is the root of change.

      • Samantha Moutrey on February 22, 2018 at 2:01 pm

        Gee, I guess some sanctimommy who is out to prove that she is the best by tearing others down thinks I should live my life differently. You convinced me, I’ll go back to my career now. Riiiiight. You are arguing That ALL stay at home mothers are causing poverty and setting women back, which is indeed misinformation and a gross generalization. You completely dismiss that plenty of women want to do this, and place the blame for workplace inequality on the victims. You also failed to see how your compilation of other people’s research only shows correlation, not causation, a fact that you ignored once again in your response. Perhaps you need to be a good role model for your children and obtain some more education on how exactly research works. Anyone can find any research to support their own opinions on the internet to support their opinions. Here is some research that refutes your position. But unlike you, I would never claim that you should stay home or that you were a bad woman and mother for not doing so. Because that kind of shaming, not working mothers or stay at home mothers, is what is further degrading the lives of women.

  24. Alinda Toro on February 20, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    I’m sorry but I laugh at the fact that you take a few angles and statistics about how stay at home moms do not help but actually hinder society. How they negatively or moreso don’t help positively in children’s upbringing yet avoid to discuss the fact that so many more statistics/research exists to contradict your statements. You are a mess and I am so sad women like you have a platform to use in which to belittle other women. Real women don’t do that…they pull other women from the trenches. Shame on you for trying to shame SAHMs because you are bitter for whatever you have been thru and clearly you have some other emotional agenda. I hope that isn’t your intent but that is how it reads to both men and women. It’s sad that even men have to come to SAHMs defense to explain how in fact they are making a difference. You say his response is emotional….?! Yet yours isn’t?! Lol This blog is demeaning to stay at home Mother’s and you are creating a you versus them situation. So sad….why don’t you try and look at the world off the pedestal you sat on while writing this!

    • Ellen on February 21, 2018 at 10:30 am

      Alinda, Would you mind sharing the research in favor of stay-at-home parents? I am a working Mom and take a lot of comfort in the earnings research for my kids. But I would love a more balanced view if there is one. Maybe you can copy some links for me to read? Thank you :) Ellen

  25. Steveark on February 20, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    I am a regular reader and I like your work, it stretches my boomer, conservative, white mind in some productive ways. I struggle with this one though. The idea that my wife did a lot of damage by retiring at 32 to raise three kids and manage our house and investments and to volunteer and to run her unofficial care taking of people who need a human touch now and then doesn’t ring true with the reality I’ve observed. One of our millennial daughters has a BS and an MS in two separate engineering fields and is gainfully employed reducing industry’s impact on the planet with our state’s environmental regulatory department. Her sister has a BS and MS in business and education and mentors division one athletes of all genders at a major university and she loves her job. They are both feminists as well but respect their mom highly and value her judgment. Our daughter in law is a PhD CRNA who seems to be doing pretty well making now about what I made after thirty years in corporate management even though she is still in her 30’s. These three women are all outearning their significant others. My spouse can out run, out hike, out shoot and out fish me and we make our financial decisions together. I prize her judgement above mine in anything that isn’t related to thermodynamics. She is a multimillionaire by the way and has always lived her life exactly as she chose. Every cent I’ve made is due in equal part to her support of our family operation. I never have nor ever will tell her to do anything, nor has she done so to me. The world, I would opine, has benefited greatly from her talents as a volunteer and someone who nurtures and helps some dozen older or marginalized people because she cares for them as unofficial family. Her kids are also productive contributors to society. The idea that you can assign fault to her life choice because she prefers to fight a different battle, one against lonlieness and neglect, instead of the gender war, seems wrong to me. The idea that she should have worked when we had way more money than we needed from one high earner income also seems silly. There are many great fights, third world poverty, religious persecution, gender bias, crime, drugs, abuse and nobody can fight all of them. In my mind she picks her battles and has accomplished a great deal in spite of not following a path you approve of.

    • Emma on February 20, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      You are arguing fact with emotion. Per many studies, several cited in this post, both boys and girls fare better when they are raised by mothers who work. You, like most Americans, tie children’s professional success to mothers’ hours with them, and that simply does not hold up. I do not suggest your wife or family are not worthwhile humans, simply that that model of the stay-at-home wife/mother hurts gender equality, and your comment does not refute that point.

      • Waylon on February 20, 2018 at 4:38 pm

        I don’t see what part of Steveark’s comments seem unreasonable or untrue in disproving your anti-nuclear family diatribe. Much of what you wrote in your own blog post are ad-hominems and emotional outbursts. On second thought, all of what you wrote is an emotional outburst. You should do everyone a favor and petition your local US Representative and ask them to pass a law making it harder for women to stay at home or have forced labor rules so women are forced to work so your fantasy world can become reality. Because everything you wrote here is truly a Marxist Fantasy.

        • Ellen on February 21, 2018 at 10:28 am

          Waylon this post cites legitimate research. I’m interested in your perspective relating to the untruths. Which things are lies? And what parts of the posts are unreasonable to you? I’m genuinely interested not doing a devils advocate thing to condescend.

          • Waylon on February 21, 2018 at 4:29 pm

            Legitimate is only an opinion. Read all of the blue numbered items in her post, they are all ad-hominems. Because she links to some study or other does not validate their existence or make the numbered statements true in any way.

            • Ellen on February 22, 2018 at 9:00 am

              ad-hominem: directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining

              legitimate: conforming to the law or to rules:

              Thanks Waylon!

        • Katie on December 5, 2018 at 11:20 pm

          I agree. Emma is not making a reasonable argument.

          Children benefit from at least one parent staying home, at least part time. Raising children leaves less time for you, whether it’s a girl’s/boy’s night out or pursuing a PhD. You make sacrifices when you have a child. If you don’t believe that this sacrifice exists, then you should not decide to have children. This pertains to both men and women. It doesn’t have to be only mom staying home, dad can do it too. There’s your gender equality.

          However, if both parents want high-powered careers and freedom to pursue them, then they shouldn’t have children. What is the point of having a child you never see?

          Also, Emma never arrived at a solution for the high cost of daycare to bank roll this full-time, career-driven lifestyle she suggests that we all have.

          Her perspective on career and family is typical of most people in capitalistic societies. We OVER-work as men and women and our families suffer and for what? To afford that Mercedes or new boat? Maybe a time-share in Tahoe? The work ethic and family life philosophy of the U.S is far behind other countries, who support family involvement and less hyper-capitalism. Their quality of lives are much better than our own.

          The answer isn’t that mothers need to work more. The answer is that we all need to work less and focus on what’s important in our lives; our families!

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