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Stay-at-home mothers are on the rise
One mother talks about her decision to stay at home with her children amid a rise in stay-at-home moms. - photo by Metro Creative Graphics

Some women make the choice to be a stay-at-home mother, to work or to do both.

The decision for Courtney Maxwell Shey wasn't as simple.

Shey decided to go to college and earned a master's degree. She became a teacher, a profession she thought would work well with being a mother. She taught middle school for nine years and took time off to have two children, Thomas and Jane.

She returning to work last year at Saint John the Baptist Middle School. That was until it was time to pay for her children's day care.
"My paycheck went to day care," she said. "I mean I basically just walked out my door and like walked down to the day care and like here you go, you know."

A report by the U.S. Census Bureau says the cost of child care has nearly doubled since 1999 from $85 a week for families with a full-time employed mother to $148 in 2011.

Shey discovered her salary barely paid for day care.

She said, "$1,800, and I made $2,200. Yeah. I didn't realize, I guess, just how much cost was to put them in day care."
The cost of day care isn't the only thing on the rise. So is the number of stay-at-home moms.

The number rose from 23 percent in 1999 to 29 percent in 2012, according to a Pew Research study, which credits a rise in immigrants who tend to stay home with their children, and a decrease in mid-market jobs.

Tom Maloney, chairman of the department of economics at the University of Utah, agrees it can be hard for mothers to find a job within the right salary range.

"You can find opportunities at very, very low wages or you can find opportunities at the high end that are going to be out of reach of many of these people," he said.

But he considers the investment in child care to be worth it.

"I think if there's something that we want to spend money on, early child care is a good place to put our money."
Susan Madsen, director of the Utah Women and Education Project, said the one skill that will open the most doors is education.
"Getting that education really is critical."

With that degree in hand, Madsen says women like Shey don't have to choose between developing a career and motherhood.
"You can still do some things whether it's volunteer work or things in the community, and use your expertise to keep your skills and your certification sharpened," she said.

Madsen advises not to overlook the job skills learned in the home. Stay-at-home mothers learn to multitask, deal with conflict and forgive others.

"Don't think you don't have things to offer because you decided to stay home with kids for a few years, because you do," she said.

Shey said she knows Thomas and Jane won't stay small forever.

"In the end, when I look back on it, I'm going to be so glad it kind of worked out how it did," she said.