When women become mothers, every decision becomes more complex and every question opens new paths: Do I remain employed? Do I stay at home? In Deborah A. Kahn’s The Roads Taken: Complex Lives of Employed and At-Home Mothers, a non-judgmental, warm and informative book, readers will learn about the stresses and challenges mothers encounter caring for children/family, self, and often, career. And identify with their perceptions and experiences shared.
The Roads Taken comes from a base of systematic data collection and analysis of responses and comments of full-, part-time employed, and at-home mothers in 2008. The research grew from a doctoral dissertation completed in 1995 with 200 employed and at-home mothers. Fourteen years later, Kahn succeeded in getting 123 of the original participants to answer questions about changes in their work status and why or why not they had occurred; challenges they experienced; stresses related to their work status; and sources of support, wanting to learn how they guide their lives once children become part of their families. Their once-toddlers were now teenagers or college students; the mothers were now at least in their 50s and some of their marriages had dissolved into divorce or ended in widowhood. They had experienced growing a family, launching their children. These mothers had been through it all while constantly trying to meet the demands and needs of all family members; provide support and opportunities; and grow as independent adults whether in a career or not.
The findings suggest that when debating employment or home, mothers examine finances, education, health, values, passion—what is important to them. Once clear about those factors, which are always imbued with personal values, they are ready to make a choice. Decisions that are consistent with their priorities and values—what the mothers feel is best for them and their family, result in more confidence, less personal conflict, and more energy to address daily demands. Life is not easy; it is hard for all mothers. Society is not supportive of either work status group. Circumstances and priorities often change over time.