Study: Moms Are More Stressed At Work Than Dads

Moms Are More Stressed At Work Than Dads And We Need To Talk About It

A mom trying to work from home while holding her daughter and watching her son during the COVID-19 home quarantine.
Jordan Siemens/Getty

New data points to moms feeling more career-related stress than dads as the pandemic drags on

Hey you. Yes, you. The working mom struggling to keep everything together at both your job and at home during an actual global pandemic. We see you and we know you’re probably more stressed these days than the father of your kids and TBH, we knew that to be true before an actual study proved that working moms are more stressed about their jobs right now than working dads.

University of Phoenix released data from their Career Optimism Index and it showed that 30 percent of working moms associate stress with their career compared to just 23 percent of dads. That’s not the only stat pointing to job struggles for moms that dads aren’t experiencing in similar numbers — 58 percent of moms report feeling easily replaceable at work compared to just 49 percent of dads. Moms also feel significantly less prepared if they needed to search for a job right now compared to dads (67 percent versus 75 percent).

Gee, I wonder why all of that is?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Labor Department found nearly 1.1 million women of prime working age dropped out of the workforce between February 2020 and March 2021 compared to 830,000 men in the same age group. The pandemic has not been kind to a lot of working folks but it’s been particularly brutal on moms, the people most likely to stay at home to monitor virtual learning for their kids or, now that more kids are back to in-person school, be the parent to stay home when a child is sick with COVID or quarantined due to exposure.

This isn’t just anecdotal — researchers from the U.S. Current Population Survey found last year after the pandemic hit that moms with young kids reduced their work hours four to five times more than dads. A McKinsey study showed around 33 percent of working mothers have considered downshifting their careers or leaving their jobs altogether since the start of COVID. Somebody’s gotta stay home when a child can’t attend in-person school and these stats show it’s not just my observations of my own circle of working mom friends proving that it’s not usually the dad. That kind of stress is clearly leading some working moms to the conclusion that work is now so stressful they might as well quit.

Of course moms are going to feel career stress when they’re more likely than their male partners to have to send that dreaded email to their boss that they need to stay home for a week because their child was exposed to COVID at school. They’re probably more likely to draft a proposal proving their job can be done from home and asking to do so in order to monitor virtual learning. They’re more likely to be the one solving the problem of their child’s daycare provider shutting down due to a lack of staff mid-COVID. It’s no secret after all these months of pandemic life that moms have been bearing the brunt of resulting changes while dads are more able to focus on their work and not have to worry about what’s happening with their kids and school.

It’s incredibly stressful when a mom is forced to find that ever elusive work-life balance in the middle of a freaking pandemic that allows anything but. I’m fortunate that I already worked from home even before COVID hit, but once the changes began with schools shutting down and decisions needing to be made, I felt the weight of knowing this was more my responsibility than my husband’s as I’m already the primary parent when it comes to these things. It only made sense that I would be the one sifting through endless virtual learning update emails and troubleshooting our kids’ tech issues as they navigated their new normal. His job involves more hours than mine and he’s on endless video calls so that fell to me and believe me when I say, I felt it. And I’m one of the lucky ones who was already able to work from home and had an incredibly supportive boss who understood if I needed to step away for a few minutes — or more.

A lot of moms can’t say the same and that’s why they’re drowning in career stress at a greater rate than dads. Sadly, there’s no single solution to this issue but companies can start by providing more support for moms when it comes to flexible scheduling and the ability to work from home. If the lion’s share of child-rearing continually falls on us, then employers must respond with meaningful ways to help reduce the load.