Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Sierra, GOOD, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, including in the book The Future of Transportation.
But household duties and pay still aren’t equal between genders, a new Pew report shows.
Being a working mom is like riding a see-saw, with family on one side and the job on the other, writes Paula Bloom: “Very rarely has this see-saw been horizontal and balanced for any length of time. Sometimes the weight of one side falls with a thump and at other times it may happen more slowly.”
The ever-tipping scale between career and kids has been a centerpiece of national conversation for many years. A new Pew Research Center report is a reminder that the challenge is not limited to women—though it is especially felt by them. The report, which surveyed 1,807 U.S. parents with children younger than 18, looks at how working parents take on responsibilities at home and the impact on their careers.
In the U.S., the share of two-parent households where both adults work full time is 46 percent, close to its all-time high. Just 26 percent of households fit the “traditional” model of parental labor, in which the father works full time and the mother does not work outside the home.
Households with two working parents are better-off economically than those without, especially when both parents work full-time. But with greater financial security comes trickier family dynamics. Some 56 percent of all working parents say it’s difficult to find equilibrium between the two poles of obligation.
Working moms overall are slightly more likely than fathers to say it’s difficult to balance work and family (60 versus 52 percent). The gap is more dramatic when you ask full-time working moms; 20 percent say it’s very difficult to strike the balance, compared with 12 percent of dads who work full-time and 11 percent of moms who work part-time. White parents with a college degree are statistically even more stressed in this regard.
These feelings trickle down into the experience of parenthood. Moms and dads who don’t find it difficult to balance work and family are much more likely to say that they find parenthood enjoyable and rewarding all the time, compared with parents who find the balance hard to strike.
Those feelings are understandable, given that the vast majority of parents (about 84 percent) say they feel rushed at least some of the time. Once again, however, moms who work full-time seem to be especially pressed for time: 40 percent of working mothers say they always feel rushed, even to fulfill basic obligations.
This feeling may be due partly to the fact that childcare still falls more heavily on the shoulders of mothers than fathers, even when both parents work. About 54 percent of households with two working parents reports that the mother spends more time caring for the kids. Household chores and responsibilities also tend to be the domain of moms.
Not surprisingly, on top of all of these extra duties, working mothers are also more likely than working dads to earn less than their spouse, and to report that parenthood is a hurdle to advancing their careers (41 versus 20 percent).
Despite advances in gender equity in the workplace, there’s still a long way to go towards equal pay and household duties. Still, the stresses and challenges of balancing family and work are not exclusive to women. Parents of all genders could stand to benefit from more family-friendly workplace policies, as American families strive to make ends meet—or have it all.