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.
By now, all kids are back in school and have said goodbye to summer vacation. Trying to establish new routines and reconnect with old ones is always a challenge for kids and their parents. For those of us with kids, Back-to-School could be renamed Back-to-Stress! Luckily, once everyone settles into the first month or so, daily activities normalize and life gets a little bit easier, or at least it seems to. What does not seem to get easier though, is managing kids and their use of technology. This challenge stands front and center when school is back in session.
According to data from The Research Moms, about 45% of moms agree that their children have more screen time than they would like. Finding a balance between acceptable use and overuse is difficult when technology surrounds us at home. Moms report a variety of devices and modern media adding up to screen time for their children, including televisions, smartphones, tablets, video streaming and gaming consoles. Most Moms are ok with some screen time as long as it is controlled, with 75% saying they agree that screen time is acceptable as long as limits are set on time and content.
However, controlling that time, especially for school-age children can be a bit tricky because so much homework is completed online and screen time is necessary. In many school districts, Google classroom has become a standard and take home worksheets and textbooks have been replaced with digital study guides and other online resources. Teachers are further taking advantage of technology to reach their teenage students, using smartphone apps to communicate about test prep and assignment reminders.
Moms are already familiar with their children having screen time, with 70% reporting that they have children who use the Internet every day and 57% with children who use a computer daily.
Parents beware, your children may be telling the truth when they say they need their devices for homework, and instead of having less screen time during the school year, be prepared for it to be more.
Want more moms data? Come back soon for a sneak peek at a brand new 2018 study from The Research Moms. The new study includes fresh tracking data about kids and technology as well as insights about the mental load that mothers bear.
How the study was conducted:
The Research Moms conducted a national online survey of 520 mothers with children age 21 and under in June 2016.