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Women say they like being moms but wish they got more respect

Mothers across the country like being mothers, but they also tend to feel underappreciated and less valued by society, according to a study on motherhood to be released today.

Those sentiments may not have changed much for moms through the decades, but the findings come at a time when women who work outside the home and stay-at-home moms are both stressed from parenting pressures and the need to better balance their lives.

The research conducted in January and February by the University of Connecticut and the University of Minnesota found that 81 percent are "very" satisfied with life as a mother. But of the 2,000 mothers surveyed (41 percent employed full-time and 21 percent part-time), 33 percent said their ideal work situation would be working part-time; 30 percent said working for pay from home; and 21 percent said not working at all.

Nearly one in five (19 percent) also said they felt less valued by society since becoming a mother.

"What really was striking here was that mothers across the board had such common concerns and feelings about being mothers," says Martha Farrell Erickson, a developmental psychologist who was the study's principal investigator. She is a senior fellow and former director of the University of Minnesota's Children, Youth and Family Consortium.

The results do not seem all that surprising to those attuned to such research, such as Rosalind Barnett, director of the Community, Families and Work program at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center, or Judith Stacey, a professor of gender studies and sociology at New York University.

"It's hard to imagine any mother saying she isn't satisfied with being a mother," Barnett says. "Even if you think that, you would not admit that in a survey."

Barnett says women can enjoy being a mother and still feel "hassled and harried" at the same time, which accounts for much of the attention mothers are receiving in popular culture today.

The Motherhood Project based at the Institute for American Values commissioned the $219,000 study, which was paid for by various charitable foundations. The New York-based institute is a private, non-profit organization whose focus is family values and marriage.

"It seems like in spite of all the challenges and stress that mothers deal with, they derive a deep sense of satisfaction in just being a mother and doing that work," says Enola Aird, who directs the Motherhood Project.

The study included telephone surveys, in-depth questions and focus groups with women from diverse backgrounds. Other findings from the study show that mothers want to spend more time on personal and family relationships and less time at work, which supports previous research, says Stacey, who has not seen the latest study.