The Roads Taken

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Published by: Miniver Press
Release Date: May 8, 2014
Pages: 276
ISBN13: 978-1939282316


Complex Lives of Employed and At-Home Mothers


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.


“Deborah Kahn provides a highly personal, almost intimate account of the choices that many mothers make as they balance family and work. She affirms the highly individualized nature of these choices and challenges us to see them through the lens of real equality: valuing a decision to care for others just as much as we value a decision to compete in the marketplace.”
—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,The Atlantic

“Deborah Kahn has given us a level-headed, fair-minded, and ultimately reassuring look at the tough choices many mothers face between full-time employment and full-time parenting. A truly impressive book! The research and analysis add a great deal to our understanding of the difficult tug between work and family that so many American mothers feel.

You will see yourself in this book. Read it, and you will better understand how complex mothers’ lives are, and how deeply personal is each woman’s decision about work and family. American society still judges mothers for whatever they do, but Kahn’s message is empowering. Stop beating yourself up and stop worrying about what others think–you are the expert on what’s best for you. A wise book.”
—Ann Crittenden, Award winning journalist and author of The Price of Motherhood, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

“In converting her research results into book form Deborah A Kahn has spared readers the dry serious tone of most studies leaving us, instead, with the words and thoughts of many young women confronted with their choice of work status: at home mother or employed mom outside the house. She does this with sensitivity, style and characteristic good humor. The texture is more like a counselling session than a how-to for young mothers regarding the complex process of coming to a well-reasoned and emotionally satisfying resolution. The author has allowed the many and diverse voices of her study subjects to emerge in a way that may facilitate and accompany young moms in deliberating on this important choice.”
—Bill, Amazon Review

“This important book comes out of years of academic and at-home research by Deborah Kahn. It is written to be read, with great anecdotes and wise counsel, by anyone considering whether to stay home or go back to work when their children are born. I recommend it without reservation.”
—Robin Gradison, Amazon Review


Is There An Ideal Work Status?

Unfortunately, there is no Holy Grail work status for all mothers. Given that each mother identifies situations relevant to her work status and then applies her personal values, it is no wonder there is no “agreement” about any one work status being “the answer” for all mothers. Each mother has her own circumstances and values, so no work status would or could be right for all. However, there is good news. Mothers, who at any time experienced full-time, part-time employment, or being at-home full time, enumerated very satisfying aspects in each of the work status options. Of course, they also identified frustrating parts of each work status option.

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