At Motherly, it’s our mission to empower mothers to thrive, and one way we do that is by elevating the voices of today’s generation of mothers. Our annual State of Motherhood survey offers a view from a unique perspective—today’s modern mother.
Through data analysis and critical insight, we’re able to show what it truly means to be a mother in 2022.
For the past five years, Motherly has conducted the largest statistically-significant survey of US mothers. This report not only gives a voice to today’s mother, but it arms them and their allies with data to advocate for change to ensure every mother can thrive.
Over the last five years, we’ve validated claims that mothers are parenting their children without supportive safety nets.
More than 17,000 mothers responded to the fifth annual State of Motherhood survey, which ran from March 7-21, 2022. We weighted the data to align with US Census demographic data to ensure results are a statistically accurate representation of today’s mothers. This report highlights the findings from millennial and Gen Z mothers. For comparison we also report some findings from the Gen X mothers who also answered the survey. Where differences are significant, we compare results from prior surveys conducted 2018-2021.
Here’s what we learned.
The Great Resignation is even more complicated if you’re a mother
During the pandemic, women left the workforce at twice the rate of men. Why? According to our survey, 26% of millennial and Gen Z mothers cite childcare issues as the number one reason they left or quit their jobs in the last year. For Gen X mothers, 37% report leaving or quitting their jobs in the last year because of childcare issues. And, for those millennial and Gen Z moms still unemployed, nearly half (46%) say they left the workforce last year specifically because of childcare issues.
A lack of accessible or affordable childcare pushed millions of women out of the workforce.
Despite the pandemic’s effect on an increased remote workforce, 48% of mothers who are currently employed report dissatisfaction with their employer’s lack of schedule flexibility and paid time off—55% of mothers report their employer can better support them with longer, paid maternity leave. So while the flexibility of working from home may seem ideal, mothers are still struggling with childcare issues along with unsupportive employers.
“I had to take a hard look at how I was managing it all. With no flexibility from my employer and childcare costs completely unmanageable, I reached my breaking point and had to resign.”Katie N.
For those women still in the workforce, their feelings about combining a career and motherhood have become even more pessimistic: 23% of mothers say they don’t think it’s possible to combine them (up from 17% in 2021). For non-working mothers, 30% feel combining work and motherhood is impossible (up from 26% in 2021).
The pandemic heightened the US childcare crisis—and it’s not getting any better
We learned that the childcare crisis is nowhere near resolved, as childcare issues were the #1 reason mothers left or changed jobs last year.
“Between the pandemic, waiting lists at daycares and no family nearby, mapping out childcare weighs on my shoulders.”Hayli C.
For millennial and Gen Z mothers who are the primary source of childcare, dissatisfaction with their childcare situation runs deep: 59% of full-time working mothers, 48% of part-time working moms and 42% of stay-at-home moms report they’re “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their own childcare situation.
Our data shows that having a reliable, regular outside source for primary childcare (daycare, nannies or a designated caregiver) makes an enormous difference in overall satisfaction—71% of moms responded that they felt “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their childcare situation when they were able to outsource it.
The cost of childcare, however, has an enormous impact on their household stress and career decisions. One third (33%) of millennial and Gen Z mothers who are paying for childcare confirm it often contributes to financial stress. And Gen X mothers concur: 53% say the cost of childcare has made them consider leaving the workforce.
“[Childcare] is a huge portion of my wages, like almost half of my monthly take-home pay.”Molly D.
Of note, 10% of Black mothers report having zero hours per week—double the number of white moms who reported the same number of hours, and more than triple that of Hispanic moms. Additionally, Black mothers are more likely to report unstable employment—58% reported that their employment changed during the last year compared to 42% of white mothers. Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indigenous mothers are also an average of 14% more likely to report “always” feeling burned out in comparison to white mothers.
Affordable and accessible childcare is the biggest public policy issue moms say they support in 2022 and beyond, which is reflected in the fact that 58% of them say that the stress and financial burden of childcare has made them consider leaving the workforce. This is especially true of Hispanic moms (63%) and Black moms (61%).
The great ‘baby bust’ of 2022
This year’s survey shows the largest percentage ever of moms who say they don’t want to have more kids.
Compared to our 2021 survey, moms in 2022 are less likely to say they want another child—9% less likely, to be exact. Moms today are also 13% less likely to want more children compared to mothers in 2020.
There are compelling reasons behind the decisions of moms who have one child and say they’re “one and done”: their family feels complete, many don’t wish to be pregnant again, and several moms also share concern for the state of the world. Notably, of those who don’t want to be pregnant again, 62% of them work full-time.
Finances are also a barrier in regard to mothers not wishing to expand their families—35% of families with household incomes over $100K indicate they would be open to the idea, whereas 55% of families with household incomes between $65-100K say they are done having children.
“We had our first and only child in 2021. Before we had her, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted one or two. Now, I couldn’t fathom having more than one.”Jennifer G.
The number of “one and done” moms has notably increased from 2020. Two years ago, 47% of mothers of one child said they weren’t planning on having more children, and in 2022 that percentage rose to 68%.
Sex & motherhood: The good, the surprising and the satisfied
Despite economic and professional hardship, today’s mothers are finding sexual satisfaction.
Forty-five percent of moms are having sex at least once per week—and 87% of those moms report being “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied.” On the flip side, 77% of moms who have sex less than once per month report being “dissatisfied” or “extremely dissatisfied.”
Age plays a part in the frequency of sex as well, but it’s not the parents’ ages that matter—it’s their children’s age. Mothers of preschool-aged children reported having the least amount of sex with the lowest satisfaction, though these feelings improve (as does the frequency of sex) once kids are beyond preschool age.
Millennial and Gen Z moms with middle school-aged kids are in the “sweet spot” when it comes to sex frequency. However, that frequency drops off when kids reach high school.
And—now here’s where the “surprising” part comes in—the majority of today’s moms report satisfaction with their sex lives. Fifty-four percent of all millennial and Gen Z moms polled report being “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with their sex lives. A majority (51%) of Gen X mothers also report being “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with their sex lives.
Almost half of today’s moms are primary breadwinners—and they’re still shouldering the mental load, too
Forty-seven percent of mothers surveyed are primary income earners, meaning they contribute more than half of their household’s income. Many mothers are supporting their families financially, and yet they’re also the primary support (or the “default parent”) for their families in terms of invisible labor—on top of also being the primary income earners.
For example, 50% of primary income-earning moms still handle a majority of the household chores, up from 40% five years ago. Today, almost half (48%) are the family financial planner, meaning moms pay all the bills and manage the household finances.
The majority of primary income-earning moms (70%) are responsible for scheduling medical appointments for everyone in the family, even those who say they have partners who share household duties equally—these moms are creating and managing calendars, children’s schedules and activities, and coordinating childcare on top of being the primary breadwinners.
Related: True life: I’m the default parent
The data shows that women and mothers who are either equal income earners or primary income earners are still shouldering most of the household and family responsibilities.
Pandemic burnout may be waning, but not enough
While the pandemic brought mothers across the globe to a breaking point, the devastating levels of burnout could be beginning to ease up. In March of 2021, 43% of mothers reported feeling completely burnt out, whereas 38% reported feeling the same way in March of 2022.
Stay-at-home mothers report higher levels of burnout (55% reporting they “always” or “frequently” feel burnt out) than their working counterparts (11% and 38%, respectively).
Related: Stay-at-home moms are not OK
Additionally, moms who feel burned out frequently are having less sex and are less satisfied with their sex life—38% of moms who report feeling frequently burned out are having sex 1-2 times per month.
“Being a primary caretaker is incredibly taxing. All of the responsibilities fall to your shoulders and there’s never a break.”Christine C.
Common contributing factors to why some mothers still feel burned out this year vs. last year: lack of sleep (only 8% of mothers report getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep), and a severe lack of solo time that doesn’t revolve around work or family. A whopping 67% of moms report less than 1 hour of solo time that wasn’t work or family oriented. Remember, things like showers and grocery shopping aren’t self-care activities—our data show that moms are craving alone time and more sleep.
Notably, 24% of Gen X moms say that if there was a cultural shift around the expectation that women can “do it all,” feelings of burnout would be greatly reduced. Only 19% of millennial moms feel that way.
How do we get mothers to feel less burned out? According to 40% of moms surveyed, more help would increase their positive feelings about motherhood. Having the resources to better balance a career and motherhood would make 30% of mothers feel more energized and positive.
In the past 5 years mothers have proven their power. Here’s what’s changed.
The pandemic has, undoubtedly, played a large role in the change in statistics from 2018 until now. While fewer Gen Z and millennial mothers plan to expand their family, more mothers are primary income earners than ever before. Compared to five years ago, there’s been a dramatic increase in mothers who are interested in legislation and policy geared toward improving the lives of families, too.
Mothers are 15% more likely to choose smaller families
On average in the first three years of the State of Motherhood survey (2018-2020), 57% of moms said they intended to have more kids. In 2022, only 42% of millennial and Gen Z moms intend to have another child.
Ten percent more mothers are contributing more than half of the household income.
Forty-seven percent of moms surveyed in 2022 contribute more than half of the household income. In 2018, 37% of moms were contributing half or more to their household incomes.
Flexibility in the workplace improved for 2% of mothers polled.
In 2018, 20% of moms hoped for more flexibility when it comes to work. In 2022, only 18% feel the same way—this could be because the pandemic shifted employers to offer more work options like working from home and flexible schedules.
Twenty-eight percent more mothers believe it’s time for policies and legislation to change when it comes to paid family leave.
In 2018, 49% of millennial and Gen Z moms surveyed felt better policies around paid leave would help them feel supported. In 2022, 77% of moms feel that way.
Stay-at-home moms have also had more frequent feelings of burnout, before, during and post pandemic.
In 2020, 8% of stay-at-home moms reported “always” feeling burnt out from being the default parent. In 2021, that percentage jumped to 20%, though in 2022 it dropped down to 16%.
Sex (or lack thereof) is causing less tension in relationships.
In 2018, 16% of moms polled reported sex as one of the biggest tensions in their relationships. That percentage increased in 2019 to 26%, and stayed steady through the pandemic (25% and 22% reporting it as a relationship concern in 2020 and 2021). That number is back down in 2022, however, as only 11% of millennial and Gen Z moms polled this year reported it as a source of tension in their relationships.
It’s clear that times are changing. It’s also time for public policies and societal expectations to catch up to the needs of today’s mother. Because mothers are the key to a healthy, functioning, flourishing society—and we can’t get there without them.
Motherly designed and administered this survey through Motherly’s subscribers list, social media and partner channels, resulting in more than 17,000 responses creating a clean, unweighted base of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1197 respondents, Millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.