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Orlando Sentinel

Hispanic Cultural Influence: More Moms Are Staying Home, Census Survey Finds

By Amy C. Rippel and Walter Pacheco | Sentinel Staff Writers

June 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Marilyn Galindo has never regretted leaving the 9-to-5 grind for a 24-hour job. It has been a labor of love.

When her second son was born five years ago, Galindo, 35, scaled back on her career to be a stay-at-home mom to sons Luis, 7, and Christian, 5.

Galindo is part of a growing trend among mothers, according to the Census Bureau, which has reported that nearly 10.6 million children were being raised by full-time stay-at-home moms last year, up 13 percent in a little less than 10 years.

Experts credit the economic boom of the late '90s,the cultural influence of America's growing Hispanic population and the entry into parenthood of a generation of latchkey kids.

"Being a Hispanic parent in the United States is hard. I feel that by staying at home, I can focus my energy on my sons as they grow up -- more so than if I worked," said Galindo, who moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando 13 years ago. "As Hispanics, we place more emphasis on our families, and that has a lot to do with staying at home."

Of the 41.8 million kids younger than 15 who lived with two parents last year,about 30 percenthad mothers who were not in the workforce and stayed home, according to a Census Bureau report.

That was up from 23 percent in such situations in 1994, a bureau analyst said.

Danielle Marshall, 32, of Altamonte Springs left her 61/2 -year career as a program manager for Volusia County Environmental Management to be a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters, ages 4 and 2.

Marshall, now the president of the MOMS Club of Longwood/Altamonte East, said she and her husband decided she should stay at home after their second daughter was born. She didn't want to put both children in day care.

"The difficult part is balancing money more than anything else," she said Monday. "Staying at home is a difficult job."

Melissa Tomasso, 31, left her "dream job" as the manager of the public-relations department at Kennedy Space Center to care for her 3-year-old son and 91/2-month-old daughter.

Stepping away from a high-profile job was tough at first, said Tomasso, who recently moved to Windermere. But the benefits far outweigh the negatives, she said.

"I think it's great," she said. "I get so many rewards. I don't look back. I'm glad I made this decision."

The Census Bureau also reported that 55 percent of women who gave birth from July 1999 to July 2000 returned to the labor force within a year of having their babies.

That was down from a record high of 59 percent the last time the survey was conducted in 1998.

With unemployment low in the late 1990s, many companies offered more work-from-home options or extended leave as enticements to retain qualified female workers, said Joanne Brundage, executive director of Mothers & More, a support and advocacy group for mothers who have adjusted their careers to raise children.

But Brundage said the flailing economy of the past few years soon may be forcing more women back into the workplace, either because their spouse has been laid off or because companies have cut back on benefits.

High birth rates and increased immigration helped the Hispanic population more than double in the United States during the 1990s. That also may have influenced the trend, said William O'Hare, a researcher with the Annie B. Casey Foundation, an advocacy group.

Galindo credited the success of her husband's company, Deaco Construction, with affording her the opportunity to stay at home.

She still works a few hours a day from home for Orlando-based Campus Crusade for Christ. The $13 an hour isn't enough to pay the bills, but it keeps her busy and close to her children.

"It may not be the same for other families, but luckily we are financially comfortable enough that we can afford it. I doubt I'll return to the work force. I prefer the support I give my sons by staying here at home," she said.

Many younger women who now have kids grew up when placing a child in day care was the norm, said Susan De Ritis, spokeswoman for the Fairfax, Va.-based Family and Home Network, which represents stay-at-home parents.

"Those children that were in day care growing up are now becoming mothers themselves, and now they don't want their kids to become day-care children," she said.

"Their mom may not have been home when they got home from school, so perhaps they want something different for their family."

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