Mothers can be found at the top of many professions, and the current generation of fathers are doing more than the dads that raised them, but we can’t pretend that working mothers and working fathers are on the same playing field.
We are jumping over hurdles while the men beside us are sprinting down a clear track. This simple metaphor illustrated by a Peruvian cartoonist at La Republica captures the complex challenges faces by working mothers. Thanks to a tweet by Mumbai-based billionaire Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, the cartoon went viral and has gotten people talking about the hurdles in our lane.
Even now, in 2019, mothers in heterosexual partnerships are often seen as the default parent. We carry a heavier mental load than our male counterparts, work more hours doing unpaid labor, spend more time on childcare and have less time to care for ourselves. Research has actually found that men’s leisure time increased after parenthood, while mothers see their workload at home increase.
Mahindra tweeted the image after watching his grandson for a week. “I salute every working woman & acknowledge that their successes have required a much greater amount of effort than their male counterparts,” he captioned the comic.
Mahindra is right that we’re putting in more effort, but we’re certainly not being paid more. When men become fathers they often see their earnings increase, while many mothers get passed over for promotions and report being hit with the “motherhood penalty”. And women still make $.80 to a man’s dollar in America.
This isn’t just bad for moms, but for the men married to us, too. According to a study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, marriages suffer when women feel they are sacrificing their careers and doing more than their fair share for the family. “Mothers in dual-earner households experience greater parenting inequalities than do similarly-situated fathers,” the researchers note.
This breeds resentment, and it can also create a situation where dads don’t feel like an equal or capable parent. The solution, according to experts, is simple: We need to divide household responsibilities more evenly between partners. Only then will the playing field be level.
This cartoon didn’t go viral because it’s funny. It’s the opposite. But it is relatable to many mothers. The good news is that we can knock down those hurdles, and investments into childcare and paid parental leave can help us do it. Being a working mother is hard, but we can do it.