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Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey results

At Motherly, we believe that motherhood matters. As the voice of today's modern mother, with a 20M+ monthly unique audience, we set out in our second annual State of Motherhood Survey to better understand the experience of motherhood as it stands right now—and to help the world discover and understand that story.

What we found is that Millennial mothers feel even more defined by motherhood than they did last year, but in 2019 they are also more likely to feel unsupported by society. A full 85% of moms don't think society understands or supports the women who are supporting the next generation, that's up more than 10% over last year.

The second annual State of Motherhood survey results have been reported by Forbes, Huffington Post, USA TODAY, Real Simple and other outlets, and continue to attract media attention.

Our internal team continues to unpack the survey data to create thought-leading content for our audience.

The survey, conducted online March 28 – April 11, 2019, was answered by 6,457 respondents and offers compelling insights into the attitudes, behaviors, identities and lifestyle of Millennial mothers—the most highly educated, first digitally-native generation of women to become mothers.

Data was run on April 16th by Edge Research to weight all data to align with US Census demographic data ensuring results are a statistically accurate representation of today's Millennial mother.

Read the full survey report here.

Among the key findings:

1. Motherhood and me

This year finds an even larger proportion of Millennial moms saying that since becoming a parent, they are "most strongly defined by their motherhood at 67% up from 59% in the 2018 survey. Continuing with the trend from last year, this is most true for younger moms (76% of moms under 30), those with more than one child (77%) and those who are not in the workforce (82%).

While 76% of moms under 30 feel most defined by motherhood, only 62% of moms over 35 say the same, suggesting that as moms mature, they retain or re-connect with other aspects of their identity. Importantly, one-third of Millennial moms say they are "most strong defined by other non-motherhood aspects of their life and self."

Data reference Q16: Select which best describes how you view your identity.

2. Impact to relationship + sex life

Most moms in the sample are married (91%) or living with a partner (6%). Similar to the 2018 findings, majorities report that having children has brought them closer together with their partners (74%), while one-fifth (21%) admit that parenthood has pulled them apart.

Spending time together with their partners (33%) and sex life (26%) top the list of parent-related relationship tension. This year, moms report that sex is a pressure point in even greater numbers than last year (up from 16% in 2018). Money worries rounds out the top three relationship tensions at 19% while parenting differences remains lowest on the list at 9%.

Interestingly, pressure points of time spent together and sex cut across all relationships in equal measure regardless of number of children and working outside the home:

Data reference Q07: Which best describes the impact on your relationship since becoming a parent; and Q08: What is your greatest parent-related relationship tension? (NOTE: 2018 wording "Which of the below best aligns your primary concern when reflecting on your relationship and parenthood?" could account for difference in responses).

This year Motherly dove a little deeper into the impact of becoming a parent on moms' sex lives. While most moms (53%) report becoming interested in sex again by 6 weeks after giving birth (11% before 6 weeks), fully 38% report it took 6-12 months before they were really interested in sexual intimacy again. Age seems to play a role with 67% of younger moms under 30 reporting being ready for sex by 6 weeks post-partum, compared to 54% of moms aged 30 to 34 and 44% of moms 35 and older. Perhaps more importantly, nearly a third of Millennial moms (31%) report having sex with their partner before they felt ready to do so.

Data reference Q09: At what point did you feel interested/ready to re-engage in sexual intimacy after becoming a mother? Q10. Did you have sex before you felt ready to do so?

3. Work + the millennial mom

Nearly identical to the 2018 survey, 53% of Millennial moms in the sample are working full-time, 15% part-time and 28% are not in the workforce currently. The majority of Millennial moms surveyed (54%) had a mom who worked outside the house on a regular basis. Among those working and in relationships, 39% report contributing half or more of the household income; while 43% contribute between a quarter and one-half and 16% contribute less than a quarter.

Financial need is down a bit from last year, though remains the top reason for Millennials moms to work (75% in 2019 compared to 83% in 2018). However, as we saw last year, the desire to work is evident as well. Both full-time (49%) and part-time working moms (53%) point to a "desire to participate in work outside the household." And more than a third (36%) of working moms are motivated by a commitment to their career. Similar to 2018, desire to participate in the workforce is evident among non- working moms as well with 63% saying they intend to return to the workforce in the future.

Data reference Q22: Are you employed? Q24: If "Yes", which best matches your reason for working? Select all that apply. Q34: How much of your family's annual household income do you contribute? Q40: If you don't currently work, are you planning to re-enter the paid workforce (part time or full time) at some point in the future?

4. Impact of parenting on work

Motherly dove deep into how moms are making work and motherhood work for them – or not.

Overall half (50%) of Millennial women surveyed report making a change to their work status since becoming a mother. Nine-in-ten (90%) part-time working moms say they changed their work status since becoming a parent, as did a quarter (24%) of full-time working moms. Among moms not currently employed, 73% report changing their work status, mostly to becoming stay-at-home moms. Most obviously for part-time working moms is changing to working fewer hours, i.e., moving to part-time from full-time (55%); followed by working from home (11%) or getting a more flexible role (7%). For moms who have continued full-time work, the most common changes are getting a more flexible role (10%), working fewer hours (6%), and working from home (4%) are the main ways they are adapting work to motherhood.

Examining the reasons behind why moms have adjusted their approach to work a mixed bag. For some (22%) it is about adjusting to new responsibilities. For others (20%) work became less important. A small but significant number (10%) also point to employer conditions not being conducive to working and parenting for a variety of reasons including the cost of childcare, inability to strike a work-life balance or the work culture not being supportive.

Data reference Q25: Have you changed your work status (i.e., full time to part time, etc.) in some way since becoming a parent? Q26: If "Yes", please describe how your job situation has changed since becoming a parent; Q27: If "Yes Adjusted Work Status, which best describes the reason for adjusting your approach to work?

5. Attitudes toward work + parenting

While the 2018 survey found most Millennial moms (78%) had mixed feelings about combining a career and motherhood, saying while "it's possible to have both, there are real trade-offs." This year, Motherly asked the question a bit differently, but again we see some mixed emotions. Just about half (51%) say, "I feel discouraged: it's extremely challenging managing trade-offs," while a third (33%) say, "I feel optimistic, I believe it's possible to combine them creatively." Perhaps of greater concern is that so few Millennial moms feel empowered by working. Fewer than 1-in-10 (9%) feel that becoming a mother has helped them in their career and the majority of those (59%) say they have felt that way since their child was a baby, indicating that this empowering is coming from within, rather than the workplace recognizing and validating the contributions of working moms.

Yet, when asked how work impacts their parenting skills, more than half of working moms (55%) say that working has empowered or inspired them to be a better mother. This holds true for working moms of all backgrounds and both full and part-time. Even more positively, 90% say their work choice has helped them set a positive example for their children – again equally true for full-time and part-time working moms.

Data reference: Q29: Which best describes your mentality around combining a career and motherhood? Q30: If you answered empowered, when did that feeling take hold? (If you did not, please select "not applicable."); Q38: If you are employed, does your work empower or inspire you to be a better mother? Q39: Do you believe that your work choice helps you to set a positive example for your children?

6. Support at work

Topping the list of the ways in which employers could better support mothers is longer, paid maternity leave (24%), followed by on-site childcare or childcare subsidies (21%), so in total 45% would like more support from employers in the transition to motherhood and ongoing support of child-rearing . Combined, flexible schedules (12%) and remote work opportunities (15%) make up the second big request from working moms – helping them better fit the need to work into the necessities of being a parent.

Encouragingly most working moms feel their place of employment is supportive of breastfeeding. Among those for whom it applies, 69% reported their employer provides adequate breastfeeding support in the form of time, privacy, etc. But there is still some work to be done in this regard: Just over 1-in-10 (12%) say their employer does not provide adequate support and another 15% say that even though their employer provides the space and breastfeeding is looked down upon in the culture of their workplace. These moms feel judged by both managers and co-workers.

Data reference: Q35: If you are employed, how could your employer best support you as a mother? Q36: If you are employed, does your employer provide adequate breastfeeding support? (i.e. time, privacy); Q37: If yes, but culturally you feel it is looked down upon, at what level do you feel like it is not accepted?

7. Support at home

Most of the moms in the sample are with a partner and majority of those partners (98%) are working as well. As we saw last year, the majority (59%) say their partner's career has not changed, while a significant minority (31%) say their partner has scaled up his or her career. Partner scale-up is most common among couples who have two or more children (38% for two or more children compared to 26% for one child) or where mom is not working (45%, compared to 35% when mom is working part-time or 22% when full-time). So, there is evidence that partners see the need to step up their economic contribution to the household after becoming a parent; but it is important to recognize that the age of respondents (in their 30s) means that their career trajectory would typically pick up at this point.

When asked directly about how supported they feel at home, working moms say partners have some room to improve with 68% saying they feel supported by their partners, but 28% saying "only sometimes." This "sometimes" qualifier manifests itself in the results of other lines of questioning about how much moms are doing for the household.

When asked where they need the most support since becoming a mom, survey respondents most frequently point to their physical and mental health (33%), followed by home (25%) and with their spouse (24%). These numbers come to life when you consider:

  • 4-in-10 (43%) report not going out with friends in the past month (non-working moms are even more likely to say this (52% compared to 40% among working moms)
  • Nearly 5-in-10 (47%) have not gone out on a date with their partner (also more likely to be true of non-working moms at 54% compared to 44%
  • 6-in-10 (61%) report handling most of the household chores and responsibilities themselves, with 32% saying they are shared equally and 5% who say their partner does the household lift
  • 6-in-10 (62%) also say that in the last day, they had less than one hour to themselves without work or family obligations.

Moms report spending the most time caring for children with 91% of full-time working moms, 97% of part-time working moms and 99% of non-working moms who report spending three or more hours a day actively caring for children. When it comes to the amount of time spent cooking and cleaning,

All moms are more likely to spend more time on chores than they are on themselves; and non-working moms are spending the most time. In fact, it

seems that as moms leave or draw down on work, household work takes up more time. How are they dealing? In the survey Millennial moms shared some of their go-to "life hacks." Some tactics cut across all moms, working and non-working like online shopping (66% working, 63% non-working), calendars and to-do lists (59% for both) and waking up earlier and going to bed later than everyone else in the household (44% working, 42% non-working). Other tactics are more likely to be used by working moms, most obviously child care assistance (29% working moms, 8% non-working) and pre-prepped meals (23% working, 16% non-working).

Data Reference: Q31: Is your partner employed? Q32: Has your partner opted to scale back or scale up their work since becoming a parent? Q23: If you are employed, do you feel supported by your spouse/partner? Q45: Where do you feel you need the most support in your life since becoming a mom? Q47: In the last month, how many times did you go out with friends? Q48: In the last month, how many times did you go on a date with your partner? Q52: Yesterday, how much time did you get to yourself without work or family obligations? Q53: In the last 24 hours, how much time did you spend on household chores? (i.e. laundry, cleaning); Q54: In the last 24 hours, how much time did you spend cooking? Q55: In the last 24 hours, how much time did you spend caring for children? Q49: What are your go-to 'life hacks'? Select all that apply.

8. Raising the next generation

Once again Motherly asked about parenting style and the qualities Millennial moms are trying to instill in the next generation. As we found last year, "kindness" is the single character trait the most moms want to cultivate in their children, holding steady as the top choice by 46%.

Notably, a number of other qualities all lost a little bit of traction with the addition of "resilience" to the list.

When it comes to the character of their children, we once again see some of the biggest differences in Millennial moms by race and ethnicity. White Millennial moms continues to place the most emphasis on kindness (51%) while their non-white counter parts value kindness to a lesser degree (27% among African-Americans, 41% among Hispanics).

Moms of color are more likely to place weight on respect and resilience:

When it comes to parenting style, Millennial moms surveyed say they are "Collaborative." "I am collaborative, I try to solve problems with my child" is the number one style across the board at 57% (down from 62% in 2018) and the top choice for every group. It is followed by "Hands On," with nearly a quarter (28%, up 5 points from 2018) describing their parenting style as "I'm very involved in directing my child." There are far fewer who say they are Disciplinarians, "I want my child to follow and obey family rules above all else" (4%) or Free Range, "I want my child to make their own decisions with limited parental interference" (5%).

When it comes to discipline, Millennials moms self-report that their approach is in keeping with their Collaborative parenting style. The survey asked moms what approach they used the last time they needed to discipline their child. The plurality (43%) report calmly redirecting and guiding their child. The next most likely approach was emotional reasoning at 18%.

Once again, moms with more than one child either have a different style of discipline or are simply more honest. They are much more likely to report using disciplinary tactics such as time out (17% compared to 5% of moms with one child); consequences (16% compared to 5% of moms with one child), or just plain yelling (12% compared to 4% of moms with one child).

Data reference: Q17: What is the most important quality you aim to cultivate in your child(ren)? Q19: Overall, what best describes your parenting style: [CHOICES GIVEN]; Q20: The last time you had to discipline your child, what action did you take?

9. Looking for guidance

When it comes to being inspired as parents, Millennial moms continue to follow the Three F's – Family, Fellow Moms and Faith. This year, family lost a little bit of traction, down to 36% from 45% in 2018; while fellow moms shows an uptick to 26% from 19% last year. Faith held fairly steady at 18% this year compared to 20% in 2018. As we saw last year, family is even more important to Latina moms at 41% than it is to white moms (34%); while African-American moms draw more on faith (25%) than other moms do.

When it comes to seeking guidance for a parenting challenge, sources are consistent with 2018. The survey asked, "the last time you faced a parenting challenge, who or what did you first turn to?" and family is on the spot. Just over a third (38%) of Millennial moms in the survey say the go-to source for their latest parenting challenge was family, peaking among Latina moms at 42%. As a source of parenting advice, Google at 16% slightly edges out friends at 14%.

Data reference: Q18: What is your most important source of inspiration as a parent? Q21: The last time you faced a parenting challenge, who or what did you first turn to?

10. Finances + family

By far, housing is the greatest expense for Millennial parents – the single largest expense for 69%. In a distant second, 10% say their biggest monthly expense is childcare at 10%, which climbs to 17% among working moms. The majority (59%) report that less than 10% of their monthly incomes goes to childcare – still 30% say it is between 11-25% and another 11% say childcare accounts for 26% or more of their monthly expenses. Not surprisingly, this expense is most acute among working moms where 45% report childcare accounting for 11-25% of their monthly spend.

Date Reference: Q43: Which monthly bill is most expensive? Q44: What percentage of your monthly household income goes to childcare?

Closing

This year, Millennial moms said even more strongly that (85%, compared to 74% in 2018) that society does not a good job of understanding and supporting mothers. This view is held across groups regardless of race, ethnicity, age, number of children and so on.

More than ever, they want government to step it up with family friendly policies on leave and childcare (59% compared to 49% in 2018) and they want to see employers be more understanding and offer flexible hours and part-time work (22%). As this large generation moves firmly into their parenting years, we can watch to see how their needs as parents the politics and policies of our country.

Data reference Q11: In general, do you feel that society does a good job of understanding and supporting mothers? Q12: In your opinion, what would have the biggest impact on the support of mothers?

METHODOLOGY STATEMENT. Motherly designed and administered this survey through Motherly's email subscriber list, social media and partner channels. This report focuses on the Millennial cohort of 3,920 respondents aged 23-38. The data were weighted to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data. Edge Research weighted and analyzed the data, providing insights to trends and key findings.


[This post was originally published on May 3, 2019. It has been updated.]

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