The Modern Mother

I can’t keep up with mom life. Partly that’s because I’m disabled.  But mostly it’s because standards for mom life are impossible.  The modern mother is expected to cook, clean, care for children, run errands,  coordinate family schedules, and work outside the home.

Modern mom wearing a baby, holding a briefcase in one hand and a feather duster in the other

According to the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, nearly 70% of mothers with kids under 18 work, including 57% of moms of babies under a year old. Despite this, moms face an undue portion on childcare and housekeeping responsibilities.  As women’s workplace demands have grown, so have the standards for childcare.

A University of Maryland study in 2015 found that modern mothers spread an average of 14.1 hours each week in quality time with their children. Compare that to 10.2 hours average moms in the 1960s devoted to their children and we can see the change over time. Contrast it with the paltry 7 hours a week modern dads invest (a doubling of historic averages), and moms are literally spending twice as much time on childcare. Remember only 30% of those moms are not earning outside income for their family.

As hours dedicated to children have increased, hours spend cleaning have dropped. Time spent cooking and cleaning has dropped 40% over the past four decades. Moms are blamed for the rise in childhood obesity and for kids eating more fast or prepared foods, but those extra childcare hours had to come from somewhere. 

The cultural shift in a mom’s responsibilities is reflected in our language.  The house wife of the past has morphed into a stay-at-home mom. Her primary duty is no longer to her house or husband, but to her children.

At the same time, cultural forces push modern moms to be more present than ever before. Standard childcare practices of the housewife era included letting kids ride their bikes without supervision. Today’s mothers aren’t allowed to leave their kids unsupervised,  even in safe situations.  Police are called now when an older child plays at a park without his mother watching.

There’s also the invisible mental labor – balancing the budget, tracking clothes sizes, monitoring the children’s health and emotions. Moms overwhelmingly get stuck with this work – on top of 30+ hours at work, 14.1 hours of childcare, and an average 2 hours of household chores per day for working and stay-at-home moms.

There’s also chores for school. Fundraisers, bake sales, field trips, and classroom parties all ask moms (sometimes parents but usually moms) to do countless hours volunteering for the school. If the school is underfunded,  this pressure may be overt and desperate.  What should be a societal matter – properly funding education for all students – becomes yet another burden on moms.

And it’s not enough to feed our kids. No, they need Bento box lunches with carefully shaped foods. It’s not enough to make sure there’s food on the table. It has to be locally-sourced in-season organic food. And really,  shouldn’t we moms take the time to make every day a Pinterest day?

I’m a disabled single mom.  There’s no one to split any of the duties with. I think the hardest part is not having another income to rely on (though in my own history,  both men I tried to live with spent more of the money I earned than they earned themselves). In two-parent homes where mom is doing a ton and dad is doing very little,  it’s easy to find the solution.  When there’s only me, I have to somehow juggle it all.

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