Based on our recent Moms on the Mother Load study, we found that moms say they are the carrier of the mental load, which includes the organizing, planning, and reminding of family tasks, but what do dads say? Data from the same survey reveals that dads contribute to household and parenting tasks in a different way, and the divisions of labor are quite clear.
To highlight the differences in responsibilities among co-parents, we used an index to compare the co-parenting dads who say they’re primarily responsible for each task against all co-parents in our sample. An index above 100 indicates that dads who co-parent are more likely than moms who co-parent to say they are primarily responsible for that task.
Our data shows that co-parenting dads are 79% more likely (179
Where do co-parenting dads index below the average? Laundry, cleaning the house, and cooking dinner are the least likely household tasks to be primarily handled by dads. This ultimately means that all these tasks, which are done frequently and regularly, are more likely to be the responsibility of moms who co-parent.
It is interesting to note, however, how the tasks are divided. Our research illustrates that co-parenting dads are more likely to be responsible for about half of the household tasks listed, with co-parenting moms being more likely responsible for the other half. When it comes to parenting tasks, however, this division is not as equal.
Of the 21 parenting tasks listed in the survey, including everything from making doctor’s appointments to organizing playdates, dads who co-parent reported that they are less likely than moms to be the primary person responsible for almost every task with the exception of one. Preparing for a child to attend college (109 Index) is the only item in the list of parenting tasks where dads index above 100 and therefore means that this is
Where the household task data shows clear groups of tasks that co-parenting dads primarily do and tasks that co-parenting moms primarily do, the parenting task data does not show the same type of division. There are very few parenting tasks that co-parenting dads are more likely to report being primarily responsible for, compared to co-parenting moms.
Overall, these findings support the conclusions drawn in our Moms on the Motherload study, that even with another parent to help, co-parenting moms are the primary motors that keep the home and family running. But as society evolves and dads continue to become more involved in parenting than their own fathers were, it will be fascinating to see what the division of labor looks like in the future.
Index is a measure that allows for comparison of a certain population against an average. An index of 100 represents the average. A target population has an index of 100 when it exhibits the same proportion of a characteristic as the average.
How the study was conducted
In August 2018, Edison Research conducted an online national survey of 966 parents of children age 21 and under and asked them to indicate who does what in their household and how they feel about their responsibilities.
Moms on the “Mother Load,” the latest study from the Research Moms at Edison Research focuses on all the tasks that women do when they are called mom. The physical parenting responsibilities as well as the thinking, organizing and planning all contribute to the mental load that moms carry. The report highlights not only the tasks that are managed, but also how those tasks are shared among co-parents and how moms view that division of labor.
This past August, Edison Research conducted an online national survey of 516 moms of children age 21 and under and asked them to indicate who does what in their household, how they feel about their responsibilities, and how much confidence they have in their child’s other parent to handle these tasks.
The survey covers not just the workload of parenting and home responsibilities but also the mental load that is required to manage a household. From planning birthday parties to making doctor appointments, find out what U.S. moms say they are responsible for, what their co-parents are responsible for, and how they feel they are handling it all.
By Nicole Beniamini
This past August, Edison Research conducted an online national survey of 750 parents of children age 21 and under and asked them to indicate who does what in their household, how they feel about their responsibilities, and how much confidence they have in their child’s other parent to handle these tasks. The survey was asked among all mothers and fathers, but for the purpose of the Working Mother WorkBeyond Summit panel, we looked at the data among full-time working parents, or parents who work 35 hours or more in a typical week.
We asked respondents a long list of parenting tasks and had them indicate who is primarily responsible for each one – either they are, someone else is, or they share the task evenly with someone else. The data revealed that most full-time working mothers are primarily responsible for the vast majority of the tasks involving their children, such as making their kids’ doctors appointments, filling out school forms, or going shopping for their kids. All these “invisible” tasks that working mothers are doing is also referred to as the “third shift.” Working mothers spend the first shift at the office, the second shift doing household chores, and the last shift planning and organizing for their family. When asked about the overall division of parenting tasks in their household, 81% of full-time working moms said they handle at least the majority of these tasks, with 27% saying they do all of the tasks. When we compared this data to mothers who are not currently employed, we were surprised to discover that it was exactly the same. Most moms are the “default” parent, whether they work or not.
So, we know what full-time working moms are doing but how do they feel about this mental load? It’s easy to assume that juggling home, work and family would cause these working mothers to combust, but they’re not! Among full-time working mothers, 66% say they feel confident about their parenting tasks, 60% in control and 59% organized. Among the negative adjectives, “overwhelmed” was the one that resonated most with these working mothers – with a third of working moms saying they felt that way.
Yes, working moms are carrying the mental load, but no, they aren’t necessarily overwhelmed by it.
Organizing your daughter’s 5th birthday party. Scheduling your son’s annual physical exam around soccer practice and band rehearsals. Remembering that Tuesday is Picture Day and Wednesday is the plant sale at school. These are just some examples of the mental load, or the behind-the-scenes strategizing that is needed to keep a family running. While household chores are becoming increasingly shared by Mom and Dad, the day-to-day planning, thinking, and organizing of parenting still very much belongs to Mom.
Research Mom Nicole Beniamini will be discussing the mental load of moms at the Working Mother: WorkBeyond Summit on October 8, 2018 in NYC. Nicole will be joining the research panel, “How the Best Companies are Staying in the Game,” where panelists will discuss the challenges of working parents and how companies can address these considerations in order to retain employees.
For more about moms’ mental load, join The Research Moms from Edison Research as they present the findings from their latest study, “Moms on the MotherLoad” on Thursday, November 29th, at 2 PM Eastern. This study highlights all new data about what’s on Mom’s to-think list, how she feels about her parenting tasks, and why she might be hesitant to delegate to someone else.
About the Research Moms
The Research Moms are Edison Research’s team of experienced researchers who also happen to be moms. Combining a solid platform of market research with real life insight, they are a unique resource for analyzing habits, behaviors and trends among moms.