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.