You are jolted awake at five in the morning by high-pitched screams from down the hall. You drag yourself out of bed to respond to the deafening “Mamma! Mamma!” exploding from the tiny lungs of your one-year-old daughter. Just as you finally get her settled and back to sleep, her two-year old older brother wakes up, also throwing a tantrum for no apparent reason. Sounds like a standard day off with the kids.
Down at the breakfast table, both your kids decide to throw their food on the floor because apparently that is more fun than eating it. It is not even seven in the morning and you are already in a frenzy. Yep, day off with the kids.
You finally get the kids ready to go to daycare and into the minivan, and just as you begin to pull out of the driveway, your son takes off his shoes and throws them directly at your head. His sister, of course, bursts into tears and has her second temper tantrum of the day because if her brother doesn’t have shoes on, than she doesn’t want them on either. Yay…a day off with the kids!
After convincing both your kids to keep their shoes on, you finally arrive at daycare. Once you’ve dropped them off, you finally have a second to breath. Your completely exhausted and it’s only 8:30 in the morning. There’s no time to think about that though because now it’s time to head to work – you have a big presentation that morning and you can’t be late. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, then you must be in a similar situation to Cristina Bolusi Zawacki. You must be a working mom .
The New Face of Motherhood
The latter half of the twentieth century saw more and more working mothers entering the workforce. Today, approximately seventy percent of mothers who have children under the age of eighteen are in the workforce, up from 47 percent in 1975 .
What’s more, mothers are now the primary breadwinners in forty percent of U.S. families, and in nearly half of all American households both parents work outside the home .Although the number of working mothers seems to be continuously increasing, a shockingly large number of Americans actually disapprove of these money-making women. Researchers Wendy Wang, Kim Parker, and Paul Taylor found that 74 percent of adults believe that the increasing number of mothers in the workforce has made it more difficult to raise children, and over half of them agree that children are better off when their mother stays home .
The Pressures Facing Working Moms
Women who do not want to give up their careers, but who still want to have children face an immense amount of emotional, mental, and financial stress. And a day off with the kids isn’t always easier than going to work.
The number of women entering the workforce has actually leveled off since the nineties . So what has changed? According to a recent study, motherhood has become more demanding over the last thirty years .
When women first began entering the workforce, policy makers feared that this change would come at the expense of time women spend with their children. Despite increased workloads outside the home, however, researchers have found that women are spending at least as much time with their children as mothers from previous decades, if not more .
According to the New York Times, women spend more time and money on childcare, they feel more pressure to breastfeed, to do enriching activities with their kids and to provide close supervision . Many women are also caught off-guard by how difficult parenthood really is.
“…women underestimate the costs of motherhood. The mismatch is biggest for those with college degrees, who invest in an education and expect to maintain a career.” 
This is referring not just to the cost of out-of-home childcare (which, by the way, is on average over twelve hundred dollars per month ) but the physical and emotional toll of balancing a career with being a mom.One study found that when you combine a woman’s out-of-home job with her duties as a mother at home, she works ninety-eight hours per week, with her day often starting at six in the morning and often not ending until at least eight thirty at night .
The Maternal Wall Bias
While some women choose to take a step back from their careers, there are still many who wish to keep advancing at their place of work. These women often find themselves facing what’s called the “Maternal Wall Bias”. This is a form of discrimination that occurs when colleagues view mothers as less committed to their jobs .
This bias can prevent women from getting promotions and raises, and cause them to be overlooked for more challenging assignments. One study even found that mothers were two times less likely to be called for an interview when applying to jobs .
The financial cost of this bias is steep. The Nonprofit organization National Women’s Law Center reported in 2018 that working mothers lose $16 000 each year when compared to their male counterparts because they are seen as less dedicated to their work .
Advice for a day off with the kids
It is no question that being a full-time mom while also managing a full-time career is a huge challenge. Here is some advice from the experts for how you can find a balance, while not sacrificing either part of your life:
- Make mornings easier. Amanda Wiss, founder of a Brooklyn-based organizing service called Urban Clarity, suggests doing as much as you can the night before. This includes packing lunches, setting out clothes, taking showers, and repacking the diaper bag, backpacks, and purses .
- Use a calendar. Fran Durekas, Founder and Chief Development Officer for Children’s Creative Learning Center suggests setting fifteen minutes aside each Sunday to review and prepare for the upcoming week’s schedule. Having one calendar that is shared with all family members, as well as other key people like babysitters, keeps everyone up-to-date and on the same page.
- Talk to your employer. Be open and honest with your employer about what you need, It is a good idea to present alternative solutions to show how your new arrangements won’t affect productivity.
- Create special family activities. Wiss suggests scheduling activities, like family breakfast or family board game night, are a great way to bond with your kids. “Create activities that regularly fit into your schedule so everyone knows what to expect and what to look forward to,” Wiss suggests.
- Spend time with your partner and with yourself. It is important for you to nurture your relationship with your significant other, and to take some time to do something for yourself as well. A monthly date night is a great way to ensure you have time to spend together, and taking a few minutes out of each day just to be by yourself will go a long way in preventing a breakdown.
The Goddess Myth
Many women fall prey to the idea that they have to be the perfect mother, and when they are not, they struggle with feelings of regret, shame, and guilt . It is important to remember that you do not have to be the perfect Goddess that you see in the media. Motherhood is difficult, exhausting, and messy. Throw a career on top of that and you are bound to have some full-on break-downs. And that’s okay.
Moms, we salute you.
Keep Reading: Staying At Home with Kids Is Harder Than Going to Work
- “Sometimes a Day Off with the Kids is Harder Than a Work Day.” Working Mother. Cristina Bolusi Zawacki. March 1, 2019
- “6 facts about U.S. moms.” Pew Search. A.W. Geiger, et al. May 8, 2019.
- “Breadwinner Moms.” Pew Social Trends
- “ Labor Force Participation Rate – Women.” St Louis Fed
- “The Mommy Effect: Do Women Anticipate the Employment Effects of Motherhood?” NBER. Ilyana Kuziemko, et al.June 2018.
- “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life.” Russell Sage. Suzanne M. Bianchi, et al. August, 2006.
- “The Costs of Motherhood Are Rising, and Catching Women Off Guard.” NY Times.
- “Understanding the True Cost of Child Care for Infants and Toddlers.” American Progress. Simon Workman and Steven Jessen-Howard. November 15, 2018.
- “Working moms put in about 100 hours of work a week, study finds.” WFLA. Staff. Mar 19, 2018.
- “Working mothers face a ‘wall’ of bias—but there are ways to push back.” Science Mag. Lesley Evans Ogden. April 10, 2019.
- “Mothers Lose $16,000 Annually to the Wage Gap, NWLC Analysis Shows.” NWLC. May 23, 2018
- “10 Ways Moms Can Balance Work and Family.” Parents. Serena Norr. July 14, 2015.
- “Motherhood Is Hard to Get Wrong. So Why Do So Many Moms Feel So Bad About Themselves?” Time. Claire Howorth. October 19, 2017.