During her first pregnancy, Emily Jantz chose to leave her career as a dietician to become a stay-at-home mom. At the time, she called the decision a sacrifice.
"In my mind, I thought, ‘You know, I'm leaving this career that I love and these patients that I love and this workplace that I love,’” Jantz said. "Every day, I went to work and I loved it."
Three kids later, Jantz is still at home with her family, and that sacrifice is one she's grateful she made.
"It's been the most amazing blessing and a really big growing experience for me, having my kids and pouring myself into that,” she said of her decision.
Jantz’s story is one that’s familiar with families across the country. According to a study by Cornell University, only about 75 percent of women are active in the workforce. It’s a statistic that has remained stagnant since 1990.
"In general, the male labor force participant rate is about 5 percent higher than the female labor force participation rate,” University of Wisconsin-La Crosse economics professor Adam Hoffer said.
The study's authors suggest a lack of "family-friendly labor laws" that are holding some women back from joining the workforce. In particular, experts cite rising childcare costs and no paid maternity leave as added stressors that can affect a woman’s decision to stay home.
"If a woman decides to have a child in the U.S., they're much more likely to leave the labor market, and they're less likely to return afterwards," Hoffer said.
Jantz knows more than a handful of women who factor in the costs of childcare when deciding whether to work.
"I have a lot of friends that once you get to three kids, if they're all in daycare, it can be so costly," she said.
A woman's decision to leave the workforce isn't necessarily only financial. Many women - like Jantz - choose to stay at home for personal reasons.
"My husband and I, both our parents stayed home with us, and we really valued that, and at the time we thought it would be a great decision for us," Jantz said. "It's a decision you have to make for yourself and your family and what you want."