"When I had my first baby, there was a big focus on not telling your employer [you were pregnant] until it was painfully obvious, on not taking your full maternity leave," says Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of "Mommy Wars" and a mom of three who left corporate America to become a writer and public speaker. "Today mothers are more entitled and empowered to advocate for themselves."
The result, says Ms. Steiner, is the prototypical working mom who's juggling sippy cups with legal briefs. "The portrait of a working mother today is a woman who is stretched really thin and who is crazy.... You work like a maniac all day ... then you rush home and have another whole shift with the kids," she says. "It's insanity!"
Herein lies the dilemma: Mothers are an integral part of the workforce, and public opinion has sanctioned this historic change, but, as Steiner's portrait illustrates, society hasn't yet reconciled the challenges inherent in juggling work and motherhood.
So have things gotten easier for working mothers?
"I would say yes," says Sornberger. "But a very qualified yes." For starters, a domestic revolution at home is easing working mothers' burdens. Fathers today spend three times as much time with their children, on average, than their own fathers did, a University of Maryland study found.
Fathers are also doing more housework, about two hours on any given weekday, or 42 minutes more per day on average than in 1977, according to the Families and Work Institute.