I'm reading a fascinating profile of Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist who investigates how people perceive and categorize others. The whole article is fascinating. Her finding on the differing perceptions of working mothers and working fathers was particularly good.
On the job, many studies have shown that working moms are seen as both significantly nicer—and significantly less competent—than working fathers or childless men and women. “We call this the ‘motherhood penalty,’ ” says Cuddy. “At the same time, fathers experience the ‘fatherhood bonus.’ They’re viewed as nicer than men without kids, but equally, if not more, competent. They’re seen as heroic: a breadwinner who goes to his kid’s soccer game once in a while. But in or out of the office, working mothers experience a fair bit of hostility from people who think they should be at home with their kids. Researchers have documented thousands of cases of motherhood discrimination; a mother being laid off might hear things like, ‘I know you wanted to be at home anyway.’ ”