Working mothers, who often feel guilty about spending so little time with their children, got a pat on the back the other day from a new report on American families.
What the report said is that moms who work outside the home take just as much interest in their children's education as moms who don't.In many cases, working wives are more willing than housewives to go to a PTA meeting, a back-to-school night, a school play, sports event or science fair. They volunteer and serve on committees.
A 1993 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics found that working mothers tend to be more active in school-related activities than mothers who are full-time homemakers.
"One might think that mothers who are not in the labor force have more time to take part in school-related activities," says the report by Child Trends, a private research organization in Washington, D.C.
"Yet families with mothers who worked full-time or part-time were more likely to show at least moderate levels of involvement than were families in which the mothers were not in the labor force.
"Individuals who stay at home a great deal and watch a lot of television tend to show low rates of participation."
The report concedes that families in which the mother worked only part-time were more active at school than families with mothers working full-time, mainly because they have more time to volunteer.
But the authors of the report, psychologist Nicholas Zill and demographer Christine Nord, contend that stereotypes about the chaotic family life of working mothers are deceiving.
Whether a mother works is a poor measure of parental involvement in a child's schooling. A better measure, says the report, is whether one or both parents are college graduates, whether they earn a comfortable income and whether they live together. Single mothers tend to spend less time than married mothers at school.
Black, Hispanic and Asian parents are less likely to come to school than white parents. For the Asian parents, who usually are regarded as education-minded, that may seem surprising. But the report suggests that Asian parents may be encouraging their children at home rather than taking part in school activities.
But the message for teachers is that working women do care about the schools their children attend.
Twenty years ago, one mother in two stayed home. Now two-thirds of all mothers work, and if you can believe government surveys, they manage to make it to PTA meetings more often than you think.