The layoff notice was not a complete surprise. At the shipping center in Denver where Jeanine Maez filled mail orders, the trend had been toward paperless transactions.
But how Mrs. Maez reacted to being unemployed in 2004 was a revelation, even to herself: she decided not to look for a new job in favor of staying home full time with her five children, the youngest of whom, a son, is 11.
“The years of ‘winging it’ with my husband in terms of taking care of the kids had been too hard, and I was tired,” she said. “And my youngest son, who is autistic, needed his mama.”
To make ends meet, Mrs. Maez, 44, sold her car, paid off her credit card debt and disciplined herself to spend more modestly on clothes and household goods. Her husband, a private investigator, took a second job selling insurance. “Whatever it takes to make a buck,” she said. “My sweet honey struggles a lot to make it work for us.”
In multiple ways, Mrs. Maez is the face of stay-at-home motherhood in America, where 65 percent of married women who stay home with children under 18 years old live in households that earn less than $75,000 a year, according to the most recent data from the United States Census Bureau.
The political storm over stay-at-home mothers took off last week when the Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney, the wife of the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, “never worked a day in her life,” and it raises the question of just who is the modern stay-at-home mom.