For many of us, it's the first word we hear when we wake up in the morning and the first word in our social media bios. But "mama" is so much more than a word. It's a privilege, it's a promise, and for many Millennial mothers, it's central to our identities.
According to the results of a new survey released by Motherly, 60% of Millennial moms say motherhood is what defines them the most.
We are moms first, and the rest of the survey results suggest it's time for society to recognize that, and to give us the support we need.
We asked 5,700 moms if society does a good job of understanding and supporting mothers and a whopping 74% said no, with 49% suggesting stronger government policies around paid family leave and childcare would be a great place to start, and 20% noting a shift toward flexible work culture would be the best way for society to support moms.
"For Millennial moms, motherhood is a key part of their identity," explains Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety. "Moms today are realistic about the challenges that they face but focused on where they expect real progress, namely, the survey reveals a desire for stronger governmental and business support."
Paid leave and understanding employers top the wish list because most Millennial moms are working, only a quarter of those surveyed are not doing any paid work (which doesn't mean they're not still doing a lot of labor outside the workforce).
More than half of survey respondents (53%) work full-time and 17% are working part-time. A full half of survey respondents say they've made changes to their work status—like shifting from full to part-time or quitting to stay home—since becoming parents.
Tenety notes that the moms surveyed are part of "the most highly educated generation of women ever, and they are waiting longer than previous generations to have their first child. So while this generation is blazing new paths in educational and professional advancement, social structures have not kept up with their realities during motherhood."
With the majority of today's moms working, clearly they do feel that it is possible, but 78% of the women surveyed say they have mixed feelings about combining a career and motherhood, and that "there are real tradeoffs".
"They feel mixed because the deck is stacked against them, but the survey reveals a focus on government policy and business culture as two areas where women believe more support is needed," says Tenety.
Most of the working moms cited financial need as their primary reason for staying employed, because, as Motherly has previously reported, it really is harder for families to get by on a single income in 2018.
The high costs of birth and childcare, lagging parental leave policies and a lack of accommodation for or understanding of breastfeeding mothers are all likely factors in why today's moms don't feel society is supportive of mothers. The good news is, while society may not be there for us, we are there for each other, even when we're not face-to-face.
Technology is keeping moms connected, and about 63% of moms spend between 1 to 3 hours per day on their phones, and almost half (45%) say they're spending most of that time on social media.
This generation of moms grew up online and we're using tech to stay in touch with other mamas (and to Google, 18% of us turn to the search engine first when we have a parenting question), not to criticize each other. Sixty-two percent of moms surveyed say social media is a force for good, not a cause of stress in their lives. Millennial moms aren't fighting with each other, we are just fighting for what we need: A little more support.
Because while we are still entrepreneurs, employees, partners, colleagues and friends, at our very core, each of us is someone's mother. And that should matter to society as much as it matters to us.