Americans' attitudes about working parents are changing, according to a new study.
working mom with baby boy
Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

According to a new study, our collective attitude regarding moms as caregivers/dads as breadwinners is finally starting to change, focusing more on individuals' family needs and less on gender.

"Americans no longer buy into this notion that gender is the most important defining criteria in how families operate," sociologist Kathleen Gerson, who co-authored the study, told The New York Times. "Americans increasingly understand that families face a lot of pressures, and they don't make these judgments about what men and women should be doing."

It's about time!

Researchers polled 2,452 people about eight different family and work situations, and found that 92 percent of Americans now favor mothers working in many situations, and as many as 77 percent now give the thumbs up to dads not working when it is more ideal to stay home. Those decisions varied based on things like childcare and job satisfaction, and whether or not they were a dual-income home, however.

For example, only 10 percent of respondents thought married mothers who were not satisfied with their jobs or childcare and whose families did not need the income should work. But that number flew up to 92 percent when it was single moms who liked their jobs and their childcare and needed the money. When a family needed the mom's income but she was unhappy with her childcare, only about 58 percent supported the idea of her working full time.

Support for working dads was all over the place, too, ranging from 23 percent for married fathers who were unsatisfied with their jobs and childcare and did not need the income, to 97 percent for those in the opposite situation.

And this appears to be the biggest shift in attitude. "We still have a breadwinner ideal for most men," sociologist Scott Coltrane told The New York Times. "But when it comes down to practical, everyday decisions that parents are making, especially in dual-earner families, there's been huge changes." He pointed to more job options and converging earnings for men and women as a driving factor.

Those factors have also helped change the national debate from whether or not mothers should work to how policies could help working parents, said Gerson.

"Our institutions have not caught up with those cultural changes," she said. "We don't provide the satisfying flexible jobs, the high-quality child care, and the economic resources that allow people to actually make the decisions that they deem best for themselves and others."

Based on this study, I think it's probably time we start.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld