Busy, but largely satisfied, is how mothers who work outside the home describe their lives in a new survey.
Despite the stress of combining motherhood and a job, such moms are happier with their lives than are their at-home counterparts, but the difference is small, according to the study by the Pew Research Center. Eight-five percent of mothers with jobs say they're "very happy" or "pretty happy." For stay-at-home moms, the number is 80 percent.
The study, however, also presents a picture of women longing to work less so they can spend more time with their families.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 66 percent of women with children age 17 or younger work either full or part time. Among those mothers, nearly three-quarters work full time.
Most of the employed mothers in the Pew survey -- 62 percent -- said they would prefer to work part time. That figure contrasts with the 80 percent of employed fathers who said they prefer full-time work.
"Working mothers ... are ambivalent about whether full-time work is the best thing for them or their children; they feel the tug of family much more acutely than do working fathers," according to the study. "As a result, most working mothers find themselves in a situation that they say is less than ideal."
Four women blog about their struggles on the Web site WorkingMomsAgainstGuilt.com.
Susan Wenner Jackson, a freelance journalist, wrote this week about returning to work part time some three months after the birth of her second child, James.
"I don't feel the least bit guilty that I'm choosing to work fewer hours and spend more hours with my kids," she wrote. "This feels like the most natural thing in the world!"
"I realize not everyone is suited for this kind of lifestyle, or able to swing it financially ... But I believe more women should be able to choose this option if they want to," Jackson wrote. "For many moms, a return to the office is a return to normalcy and stability."
Another Web site, MommyTracked.com, takes a stab at "managing the chaos of modern motherhood" with common sense and a dose of humor.
"How are we supposed to have 'it all' when most of the time we can't even find it?" the site asks.