The coronavirus pandemic has created new challenges and reinforced existing ones for many working mothers in the United States. For Mother’s Day, here’s a look at the experiences of American mothers juggling work and parenting responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak, based on data from the Pew Research Center surveys.
Data for this analysis was drawn from several Pew Research Center surveys, with links included in the text of the message. Most of the findings come from a Center survey of 10,332 U.S. adults conducted October 13-19, 2020.
All of those who participated in the surveys are members of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited by random national sampling of residential addresses. This allows almost all American adults to have a chance of being selected. Surveys are weighted to be representative of the US adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, party affiliation, education and other categories. Learn more about the ATP methodology.
During the first months of the pandemic, there was an increase in the proportion of mothers who said they preferred not to work for pay at all. In an October 2020 survey, around a quarter (27%) of mothers with children under the age of 18 at home said that at this point in their lives, the best work arrangement for them personally would be to not not work for pay at all, compared to 19% who said so in a summer 2019 survey.
The proportion of mothers who said it would be better for them to work full time rose from 51% to 44% over this period, while around three in ten in both surveys said they would prefer to work part-time.
Employed mothers were more likely than working fathers to report encountering work barriers during the pandemic, according to the same October 2020 survey. Among parents who work with children under the age of 18 at home, mothers were generally more likely than fathers to say that since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, they faced a variety of professional challenges.
For example, 54% of working moms said they couldn’t “go 100%” at work because they juggle work and parenting, compared to 43% of working dads who said this. Working mothers were also more likely than fathers to say they needed to reduce their working hours because of parenting responsibilities (34% versus 26%) and to say they were treated as if they weren’t. were not engaged in their work because they had children (19% versus 11%).
These patterns mirrored those found before the coronavirus outbreak in the summer of 2019, when working parents were asked if these things had ever happened to them.
In general, mothers consider themselves to take on more childcare duties than their spouses or partners, while fathers are more likely to say these responsibilities are shared equally, according to the October 2020 survey. About three-quarters of mothers in heterosexual relationships (74%) said they did more to manage their children’s schedules and activities than their spouse or partner; only 3% said their spouse or partner took on more of these responsibilities. About half of mothers (54%) said they did more than their spouse or partner to be an involved parent, while only 3% said their spouse or partner did more.
Most fathers in heterosexual relationships (63%) said being an involved parent was equally shared between them and their spouse or partner; a smaller proportion of mothers (43%) said the same. Similarly, fathers were more likely than mothers to say that they and their partner or spouse shared the management of their children’s schedules and activities (36% versus 23%). These results also largely reflect pre-pandemic trends.
Earlier this year, around half of working parents said the coronavirus outbreak had made it difficult to manage childcare responsibilities, and mothers were particularly likely to report the problem. About six in ten mothers (58%) said it had been at least somewhat difficult in recent weeks, compared to 43% of working fathers, according to a February 2022 survey of working parents with children under 12. years at home. Those numbers were similar to those reported by working moms and dads in October 2020, when many schools and daycares weren’t operating in person.
More than a third of mothers who teleworked during the first months of the pandemic said they had a lot of childcare responsibilities while working from home, according to the October 2020 survey. Among employed parents who worked remotely all or most of the time and who had children under the age of 18 at home, 36% of mothers said they had a lot of tasks care during this period, about double the proportion of fathers who said the same (16%). Mothers and fathers were about equally likely to say they had at least some childcare responsibilities while working from home (66% vs. 65%).
Many mums and dads who worked from home at the start of the coronavirus pandemic reported difficulty doing their jobs without interruption, the October 2020 survey revealed. About half of mothers (52%) and fathers (48%) with children under the age of 18 at home who worked remotely all or most of the time said that since the outbreak of coronavirus, it had been very or quite difficult for them to get their work done uninterrupted. A much lower share of teleworkers without minor children at home (20%) said the same.
About six in ten mothers felt they were having about the right time with their children in 2020. In an October 2020 survey, 58% of mothers with children under 18 at home said they had a good time with their children, compared to 28% who said they spent too little time with their children and 13% who reported spending too much time with them.
Almost half of fathers (46%) said they spent enough time with their children. A similar proportion (48%) said they spent too little time with their children, and only 5% of fathers said they spent too much time with their children.