Con: Support available to Crossroads moms to keep working
From the time she was a little girl, April Hall knew she would be a stay-at-home mother, just like her mom.
"Some women wake up every day, and they really want to go to their jobs," Hall said. "They don't want to be at home, and that's fine. For me, I want to be at home with my kid."
Hall, 37, is part of a growing number of stay-at-home moms in the U.S.
The share of mothers who do not work outside the home rose to 29 percent in 2012, up from a modern-era low of 23 percent in 1999, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.
The Pew Research study attributes the increase in stay-at-home mothers to a lack of jobs and options, but Hall said her and her husband's choice came down to more than economics.
"A lot of my friends who are single moms, if they could stay home, they would," Hall said.
She grew up in Victoria, the daughter of a Baptist preacher and a stay-at-home mother. Now living in Floresville, she's always considered herself a plan B person, and as a home-school teacher for her 8-year-old, Ashlynn, it comes with the territory.
There's a stigma to being a stay-at-home parent and criticism from both sides of the debate - those who say you shouldn't give up on your career, and those who say you should give everything up for your family - she said.
As a musician, Hall felt a special inspiration from the birth of her daughter.
"I could do both, play music and be a mom," Hall said. "People told me that was selfish, and I should give it up. I don't believe it's selfish for me to chase my dreams because I want her to see that I'm still chasing them and she can, too. ... Being a mom doesn't mean you give up on your whole life."
Crossroads organizations are trying to reduce the barriers to help more women make ends meet, become self-sufficient and continue chasing their dreams, whether through food banks and markets provided by the Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry or job banks and child care assistance by Workforce Solutions Golden Crescent.
Carole Kolle, director of the workforce centers at Workforce Solutions Golden Crescent, understands the financial constraints many mothers face.
"When my youngest son went to kindergarten, I felt like I got a raise," she said.
Parents who work at least 25 hours a week or are enrolled in school can be eligible for assistance from the workforce center.
"We're trying to match the best quality job seeker to the employer; some need child care, additional skills or transportation," Kolle said. "We're trying to remove all those barriers and get people matched up with an employer where they can be self-sufficient and provide for their family."
With summer approaching, parents needing child care assistance should consider applying with Workforce Solutions, she said.
According to Census data, families with an employed mother and children younger than 15 spent an average of $143 weekly for child care in 2011, up from $84 weekly in 1985, figures which have been adjusted for inflation. However, wages have remained stagnant and in some cases have plummeted depending on education level.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Victoria's unemployment rate was at 4.7 percent in February. Statewide, unemployment among women is higher than men, with the majority in the 16- to 19-year-old age group.
The decision whether to stay at home or join the working world is one that hits close to home for Carol Alexander, an assistant at the Christian Assistance Ministry.
"My own daughter, she has her bachelor's degree and a full-time job but is expecting her fifth child and is seriously considering staying home after the baby is born," Alexander said. "The cost of child care makes it not worth her while to work."
While she would not release any information about their clients, including whether there are more stay-at-home mothers using their services, she said their services are offered based on need and income. A family of four cannot earn more than $3,544 monthly; even so, the need is great, she said.
"I had a phone call from a mom who needed formula, and we haven't had any in a month or longer," she said. "There is definitely a need."