Mother’s Day: Are more moms staying home?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Mother's Day
Pew Research Center tracking of Moms at Home

Click the graphic from Pew to visit Pew’s website and see the full report.

Whether or not you think mothers should stay at home and raise the kids—the fact is that more mothers are staying home. Almost three of ten mothers (29%) stayed at home in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. It’s a continuation of an upward trend that started over a decade ago.

My question is: Why are more moms staying at home?

Pew’s analysis goes back to only 1967, so we don’t know what the stay-at-home rate was on the first Mother’s Day 100 years this week. In 1967, almost half (49%) of all mothers with kids younger than 18 years old stayed at home and did not work outside the house.

That figure started a steady downward march after 1967, hitting a low of 23% in 1999. After that, the trend reversed and increasing numbers of mothers stayed at home.

Here is why Pew thinks large groups of moms are staying home: Multiple factors come into play. Some mothers stay at home to care for sick children or ailing elderly parents. Some mothers stay at home because they can’t find work in a weak economy. When a job is available, it may not pay enough to justify childcare expenses. And, all this takes place in a social context with conflicting norms and expectations about the role of women (and men) in the workplace and in the family.

Pew made some general comparisons: Married stay-at-home mothers whose husbands work “are more likely than single or cohabitating mothers to say caring for family is their primary reason for being home.” In contrast, single or cohabitating mothers are more likely “to say they are ill or disabled, unable to find a job, or enrolled in school.”

Are you a stay-at-home mom?

Do you think the trend of more stay-at-home mothers will continue?

Is the trend a good or bad thing for society?

Extreme Generosity: What motivates people in your area?

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Extreme Generosity
A Chronicle of Philanthropy interactive map for exploring charitable giving across the US

HOW DOES YOUR PART OF THE U.S. STACK UP ON GIVING? The Chronicle of Philanthropy provides this fascinating interactive map that shows visitors local patterns of contributions. CLICK anywhere on this map, above, to jump to the Chronicle’s interactive site.

This week we’ve examined extreme generosity—over-the-top acts of giving to others. We’ve considered the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellows Fund, anonymous giving, and giving the gift of a kidney to save a stranger’s life. When we consider these acts, the question of motive arises, as astute reader Britt said in a comment.

So, today, we end the week with the question of motive: Why give?

This question haunts philosophers, social scientists, and evolutionary biologists. For some, the answer is simple: self-benefit hides at the bottom of every seemingly selfless and generous act. Wealthy donors who get their names on the institutions they endow get prestige, recognition, and esteem. Anonymous donors don’t get reputational benefits, but as Britt pointed out, the degree of sacrifice also matters. A donation may be enormous in absolute terms, but not large enough to really be felt by a rich donor.

In fact, middle-class Americans are more generous than rich Americans, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Middle-class Americans give a far bigger share of their discretionary incomes to charities that do the rich.” Rich Americans who live in communities with other rich Americans are the stingiest.

Religion makes a big difference. People who live in deeply religious regions of the country tend to give more to charity. Utah ranks #1 among all states for the percent of discretionary income residents give to charity. Idaho, another state with numerous members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is in the top nine. All the other states in the top nine are in the Deep South.

Of course, many other factors matter. In addition to religion, tax breaks, politics, and even where you live factors in. For example, residents of Red States give a higher percentage of their discretionary income to charity, compared to residents of Blue States. New Hampshire is the Blue state with the lowest percentage.

Is there such a thing as truly selfless giving?

Is self-benefit the motive behind all giving?

Or, are there altruistic reasons?

Valuable Objects: How much value is there in your paycheck?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects

Kathy Macdonald family display is shared by Our Values groupValues come to life when we tell the stories behind the values. This week, I am sharing family stories men and women have been telling me in an in-person pilot project we’ve been undertaking. As we hear the family stories—we understand the importance of the values in new ways. Often, there are objects connected to these family stories—objects that may be big or small, mundane or rare. The more important the value and the family story—the more precious the object becomes.

Today, we consider a common form of money—a paycheck, which conveys priceless meaning.

Kathy MacDonald, a participant in our discussion session this week on values, brought in both a paycheck and a chunk of copper ore—and told us a story from 1910.

The ore was mined by her grandfather, and the paycheck was his, as well. All her grandparents lived in mining communities in Cornwall, England, and brought their skills to upper Michigan. The check was for $58.60, which was probably a month’s wage.

“There’s lots of history around it,” said Kathy. “Like many others, they understood machinery. It was only a few years after this that Ford began paying outrageous wages in the Detroit area, so they came down to work at Ford’s factory. It was the beginning of their second life.”

Kathy’s father was born in 1917, but only a few years later, his mother perished in a great flu epidemic. So, Kathy said, these objects represent “lots of bits of American history woven into them.”

What does a paycheck in 2013 signify?

What object tells a story of your values and how you got them?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.

Valuable Objects: Who do you think you are?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects

Alice Nuttall and her family scrapbookHave you watched the American genealogy documentary, Who Do You Think You Are? Each episode features a celebrity who traces his or her family tree. Sometimes surprising branches are uncovered—and that kind of discovery is not limited to celebrities’ genealogies. Many men and women dig back into the past and discover unexpected ancestors.

Has your family tree surprised you?

Alice Nuttall shared an interfaith surprise she discovered in her family tree. Alice was among a group of adults convened this week by OurValues staff to discuss core values. Each participant brought an object that signified an important value for the person’s family. Alice told us of the 30 years of labor that went into the construction of her family tree, now with over 4,000 people, many of whom trace their roots to Scotland. All were “people of faith,” she said. “They were Presbyterians.” On her mother’s side and father’s side, “everybody was active in the church.”

She showed the group a thick booklet with a plaid cover, stuffed with even more notes, photocopies and clippings as the research continues. During this digging, Alice explained to the group: “I even found out that, on my Dad’s side, his great-grandfather was actually Jewish. We never knew about all the Jewish ancestors!”

With excitement, she told us how she had found information online about her Jewish ancestors, including images of tombstones written in Hebrew. She described with pride how both her Christian and Jewish ancestors were people of faith. The Jewish ancestors were just as community minded as the Christian relatives and pitched in, for example, to help organize a Jewish congregation and cemetery, as well.

Is your family tree one of your valuable objects?

Does your family story contain surprises?

What object would you select to tell the story of your values and how you got them?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.

Valuable Objects: Missing photographs, missing memories?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects

Jennifer Pollard with photo of her great grandmotherAmericans today are the most photographed people in history. Smart phones and Facebook make it easy to capture daily images of our lives and share them. Go back a generation or two, however, and photographs are rare. Many are missing, representing gaps in the stories of our families.

Do you have a photographic gap in yours?

Here’s a story of one such gap: Jennifer Pollard’s family is from Barbados, the tiny island nation just north of South America. Jennifer participated in our recent group discussion on objects and the values they signify. She showed a photograph of her Great Grandmother Cecelia. This photo is a valuable object. But the missing photograph is one of her Uncle Arlington, one of her Great Grandmother’s 11 children. Seven immigrated to America, and her uncle was the first. As Jennifer told us, “He came through Ellis Island, and he started a dry cleaning business in New York.”

As she told her story, she reflected that the activity of sharing such valuable objects can be difficult. “You realize how many gaps you have about your family,” she said. “I did meet my Uncle Arlington and some of his siblings—but my regret is that I didn’t get to know them more and to meet those whom I didn’t get to meet. I wish that they had lived longer so I would have been able to learn more about them. … A part of me is missing because I don’t have a decent knowledge of my great aunts and great uncle.”

Arlington’s story is a classic immigrant story of people coming here to make a better life for themselves and their families. His example illustrates the values of achievement, hard work, and enterprise.

Do you have a story like Jennifer’s?

Is there a gap in your family knowledge?

What object would you use to tell the story of your values and how you got them?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.

From Thanksgiving to enjoying … the dessert OF ICE CREAM SCULPTURE — LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY: Vladislov and Maria Sedletsky in 1901 (at top); along with images then and now of ice cream confections including a century-old ice-cream freezer, wooden kopystka spoons to shape the ice cream, home-made caramel ice cream, a chef carving ice with a knife and an example of hand-colored pulled-sugar decorations in the form of a flower.TODAY, Dmitri Barvinok completes a week of Thanksgiving stories that have taken us far away—to reflect on the basics of life here, at home, today. Dmitri’s family homeland is Belarus. Read Part 1 for more background.
Here is Part 5, the last part

This entire week, we’ve been ruminating on things we take for granted, like schooling, public safety, dignity and culminating on Thanksgiving with righteousness. Today, I hope you’re ready for dessert.

If there’s one thing that is easy to take for granted, it’s ice cream. Our ice cream is easy to move from the grocery store back to our house, where we have everlasting ice-boxes to keep them cool until the day we choose to eat them. Not to mention, we have countless flavors at our disposal, and that’s not counting sherbet and frozen yogurt.

For our final reflections this week—we now go back to Belarus again, this time to the Mogilevtsy estate. Before the Bolshevik Revolution changed everything and brought down aristocratic families, the estate was opulent: 37 rooms, including a library. The woman of the house, Vladislava Dekonskiya Marshilokova, was a regal presence. Her hair was long, past her waist, so she tied it into a knot on the back of head. Every evening, two maids took hairbrushes and brushed her hair for half an hour.

Vladislov Sedletsky, a distant relative of mine, was the head chef of the household, and his wife, Maria Sedletsky, was the head of the household. He managed to conjure up aesthetic and delicious meals on the faraway estate. But his specialty was—ice cream. And, far more than the ice cream scoops or simple sundaes we enjoy today.

When guests arrived, Vladislov Sedletsky got to work. Ice cream creations needed to be done quickly, for obvious reasons. Vladislov made the ice cream on the spot, but then went above and beyond. He would carve ice sculptures with a hot knife.  Using a wooden spoon called a kopystka, he would cover the sculpture with the ice cream. Then, he would melt sugar and dye it with spinach for green or beets for purple and red. He wrapped the sugar onto sticks, held by two servant boys, in order to cool. Then, it was laid onto the ice cream.

Using the colored, pulled sugar confection, he liked to form the monogram of honored guests at the estate. These elaborate constructions had to be carried out into the dining room on a special stretcher. It was brought to the dining room table and the guests would stand and applaud the work of art.

That was prior to World War I—a century ago. Such a level of ice cream scuplture is rare, even today. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

What favorite food do you take for granted?

What kind of food is your favorite?

Please, leave a Comment below.

Originally published at, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.

Geneaology and family values: A tonic for American restlessness?


Thomas Lynch
mericans are a restless people. French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville noticed it when he traveled the country in the 1830s. Others have observed it since.

Poet-essayist-mortician (yes, you read that right) Thomas Lynch talks and writes a lot about our rootlessness. It’s one reason why the rate of cremation is rising across the U.S., especially on the West Coast. Our families aren’t rooted in one place long enough to establish traditional family plots at cemeteries, Lynch says. (That’s Tom above. You can learn more about this award-winning author and speaker here.)


Perhaps a function of genealogy is to quell restlessness—a way to set down roots and understand one’s place in the world. The narrative of “one’s own becoming” offers stability in the face of rootlessness. (Scroll down to see early posts this weeks about the reasons people explore genealogy.)

Technology and scientific breakthroughs aid and abet genealogy. And time. Online family research is the one activity that wired seniors (65+) do more than any other age group, according to a Pew survey of online users.

In case you’re interested, Brooke Shield’s episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” airs tonight on NBC. According to the preview, she’ll discover her ties to self-made aristocrats in Italy and legendary royalty in France.

And some trivia I couldn’t resist telling you: Did you know that George Stephanopoulos and Hillary Clinton are distant cousins? DNA research showed that.

But then again, DNA research conducted around the world by National Geographic shows that we are all related—and if you go back far enough, we are all Africans.


Before we leave this topic, tell us about your experiences with family research. What did you learn? Was it comforting or not?