It's 2017 And Working Moms Still Carry Most Of The Mental Load Of Parenting

by Cassandra Stone
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Working moms take on more at work and at home compared to working dads

Now more than ever, women are equal household earners to their male counterparts. Many are even the financial “breadwinners” of the family. So why, in 2017, are so many working moms continuing to manage the bulk of the household and family responsibilities?

According to a study recently conducted by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, the “mental load” felt by moms is a very real thing, and it has a significant impact on moms at home and work. Working moms who have jobs that provide a major source of their family’s income are two and three times more likely to simultaneously manage household and family schedules than working dads.

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What’s this “mental load” you ask? Well, if you’re a mom you’re probably not asking this at all. But let’s elaborate anyway, shall we? Close your eyes. Think about who handles school pick-ups and drop-offs, early dismissals, sick kids, carpools, pediatrician appointments, dentist visits, school concerts, organizing classroom treats, knowing when the diapers are running low, grocery trips, dinner menus, school supplies, babysitter schedules, which kid doesn’t like bread crust, and the laundry, laundry, LAUNDRY.

These are just some — not all — of the mental tasks moms keep track of on a daily basis. Not because dads are incompetent idiots or unwilling to bear the load. Dads are more involved than ever before. But moms are the ones who make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Moms are the keepers and caretakers of the entire family. Factor in that the average working mom clocks in 98 hours per week at work and at home, and it’s no wonder we’re all exhausted.

The study also shows the household responsibilities for working moms only increase when women are bringing home the primary paycheck:

  • Breadwinning moms in married households are three times more likely than breadwinning fathers to be keeper of their children’s schedules and ensuring that they get to all activities and appointments.
  • They’re three times more likely to volunteer at school.
  • They’re nearly twice as likely to make sure all family responsibilities are handled.
  • 86% of working moms say they handle the majority of the family and household responsibilities.

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So what’s the solution? Shattering stereotypes is a great place to start.

“Now is a more important time than ever to break out of traditional male/female stereotypes – both at home and at work,” says Maribeth Bearfield, CHRO of Bright Horizons in a press release. She says employers need to understand that many of their employees are playing “double duty” by working just as hard at home managing family life.

She’s absolutely right. Work is an important and necessary part of life, no doubt. But it should never be someone’s whole life — for moms and dads alike. Workplace culture could certainly be more gender-blind to the roles of mom employees vs. dad employees. These outdated stereotypes and mentalities only contribute to the inequality at home.

“By providing supports to working women, they can help open up mindshare that can contribute even more to the workplace,” she says. “And by creating environments where men are encouraged and valued for taking advantage of work/life supports as well, workplaces can start to catch up with the culture this generation of working families demands.”