“Motherly exists to redefine motherhood and empower mothers to thrive. One way we achieve this is by amplifying the voices of today’s mothers through our annual State of Motherhood survey, the largest statistically significant survey of mothers in the US. By analyzing survey data and offering valuable takeaways, our report not only gives voice to today’s mothers, but also equips them and their supporters with insights to advocate for change, working to ensure that every mother can find her footing—even when so many systems are failing her,” says Jill Koziol, CEO and cofounder of Motherly.

Nearly 10,000 mothers completed our sixth annual survey, conducted from Feb. 26 to March 13, 2023. To ensure our results represent today’s mothers accurately, we weighted the data to align with US Census demographic data. Our report focuses on the findings from millennial and Gen Z mothers, but we also provide some insights from Gen X mothers who participated in the survey. Findings continue to validate that today’s mothers are parenting without adequate structural support.

This year finds mothers increasingly stressed about finances, yet a lack of access to affordable childcare keeps many mothers out of the workforce. The key to getting mothers, who also do the majority of childcare and household management, back into the workforce? Flexibility, Motherly’s survey reveals. Importantly, mental health concerns continue to climb, now registering as a top worry. More mothers report they have sought mental health services in the past year than in the year prior.

The following report is a synthesis of this year’s findings. Here’s what we learned.

The Great Resignation continues for mothers

This year finds more survey respondents clocking in as stay-at-home parents than past years at 25%, compared to 15% in 2022. Eighteen percent (18%) of mothers in our sample changed jobs or left the workforce in the past year, and the top reasons cited are staying at home with children (28%) and lack of childcare (15%).

State of Motherhood statistics: SAHMs rate has nearly doubled

At-home parents are clear: To bring them back to the workforce, they need flexible work schedules (64%) and affordable childcare (52%). 

“America is in a childcare crisis and the data shows it’s driving moms from the workforce and threatening the economic security of our families. It’s time for us to reimagine our workplace cultures around the realities of motherhood and invest in the structural supports moms need to work and have kids.”

Reshma Saujani, CEO & Founder of Moms First

As we have seen in previous years, the ability to find and afford childcare is a significant factor in mothers’ attitudes toward work. “It wasn’t financially prudent to work and send my children to childcare. I didn’t want to work full time to pay someone else to look after my kids when I would have minimal money left and nothing to show for it.” says mom Mandy W. Others had to change jobs. “I am still working, but I took a massive pay cut to take a job working from home,” shares mom Mary B. The trends by age indicate just how much childcare issues are keeping younger mothers out of the workforce:

Great Resignation Table

Just about half (49%) of moms in our sample rely on outside childcare and 63% are paying for 30+ hours a week of care. While most moms are satisfied with their childcare, 1 in 5 (21%) are not, and the overwhelming reason is cost (69%). Tracking with last year’s results, 67% of moms are spending at least $1,000 a month on childcare, with 18% spending $2,000-$3,000 and 13% spending $3,000 or more (31% in total spending $2,000+ per month). It is not surprising that one-third of moms (33%) using outside childcare report that the cost is “often” or “always” a source of financial stress in the household. In fact, 52% of working moms say the cost of childcare has made them consider leaving the workforce.

State of Motherhood statistics: 52% of working moms say the cost of childcare made them consider leaving the workforce

Related: ‘Childcare swapping’ gives us the village we’ve been looking for

Aligned, we found that employers must increase flexibility to make the workplace sustainable. This year, our survey asked mothers how many days of school or daycare their children have missed since the start of the 2022-23 school year. With the 2022 fall spike in flu, Covid and RSV, it is not surprising that the number of days missed are high. Six in 10 report that their child/ren have missed 6 or more days of school (a full work week or more) and 30% say their kid(s) have missed 11 or more days (2 full work weeks or more). The need to not only pay for childcare but to also be available to care for a sick child further underscores the importance of employer flexibility.

“It isn’t surprising to see that flexibility and affordable childcare are the biggest ways to bring more moms back into the workplace. If companies want to attract and retain this incredible pool of talent, they have the answer sitting right in front of them. The question is now are they going to embrace the idea of change and innovation or fall back into the old ways of the workplace—the ways that were never designed for working moms.” 

Mary Beth Ferrante, Founder WRK/360

Related: 6 moms reveal why they left the workforce in the last year

Self-care looks different as moms prioritize sleep over sex and friends

It’s a known struggle to balance a social life with the demands of motherhood, and for many mothers, this year is no different. Moms are spending even less time with friends, despite the lifting of Covid restrictions. In fact, 51% of moms report that they had not gone out with friends or their partner without their children in the past month, a significant increase from 38% last year.

“The hardest part of maintaining a social life is just planning everything in advance. I can’t really drop everything and go meet someone on a whim.”

Elizabeth B.

As a result, it’s no surprise that nearly half (49%) of all moms report feeling burned out by motherhood.

Related: Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Date nights with a partner are less common this year, with only 43% reporting one or two date nights per month. Not surprisingly, the frequency of sex among moms with partners has also declined since last year, with 54% of moms reporting that they are having less sex than they were a year ago. While most moms (62%) would like to have sex once or twice a week, 60% are having sex twice a month or less. The main reasons for this include adding a new baby to the family (65%) and not having enough time (53%).

State of Motherhood statistics: 54% of moms say they're having less sex

Moms are finding other ways to prioritize self-care, with 51% reporting they prioritize sleep over socializing with friends and family. This shift in priorities is reflective of the ongoing challenges that moms face in balancing the demands of motherhood with their own needs for self-care.

“Self-care is all about purposefully carving out time for me. For too long, I tried to go without it, but I realize now that time for myself makes me a better parent.”

Anne K.

On average, moms are getting a bit more sleep this year, with 73% reporting they’re logging 6+ hours of sleep a night, up from 60% last year.  As we saw last year, however, sleep among Black moms continues to lag behind white moms, with only 60% of Black moms saying they get 6+ hours of sleep a night.

Related: What if we saw sex as self-care?

Household and family responsibilities fall more on mothers than during the height of the pandemic

The mental load of parenthood continues to be borne by mothers, with household and family responsibilities falling more on mom than even during the height of Covid. 

This year, 58% of moms report they are primarily responsible for the duties of running a household and caring for children, up 2% over 2022.

State of Motherhood: 58% of moms take on primary household duties

“I absolutely feel that I have to take responsibility for the chores and other household duties, otherwise they won’t get done. A lot of the work goes unnoticed and that can be pretty detrimental to my mental health, especially when I feel like my partner isn’t shouldering any of the mental load at all.”

Sarah B.

Possibly because more women are choosing to become SAHMs than in previous years and more partners have returned to the workplace, we see an uptick across the board on duties like scheduling, errands, cleaning, meal prep and so on among mothers who have partners. Thirty-two percent report sharing responsibilities equally with a partner, down 2% year over year. 

Related: Mothering is work. This year, I’d like a raise, please

Household Responsibilities Table

At times, taking on more of the household responsibilities can be a source of stress between me and my partner. While my partner appreciates what I do, there have been instances where they don’t understand the extent of the work involved in running a household.

Kamila V.

The majority of moms (62%) still report getting less than an hour to themselves each day. If they had that uninterrupted hour, moms have a long wish list of how they would spend it. Coming in at the top are taking a nap (55%) or watching a show (54%). Moms are divided when it comes to exercise: While very few say they work out every day (7%), 41% report that they work out a few times a week on average. This compares to 26% who work out a few times a month and nearly a third (32%) who work out a couple of times a year or never.

Every year, Motherly’s State of Motherhood report provides one of the most comprehensive views of
how women juggle between motherhood and career. Their robust data allows me to not only provide insights for corporations and business audiences but also fuels my arguments for maternal health policy changes.

Christine Michel Carter, Award-winning advocate for working mothers

Related: Gender equity at home is still out of reach, our survey shows

Mental health is mom’s biggest worry

This year’s survey paints a stark picture of the mental health crisis in the US, with nearly half (46%) of mothers seeking therapy, a quarter of their partners and more than 1 in 10 children.

When asked what keeps them up at night, mental health concerns have surpassed finances as mothers’ top source of worry.

State of Motherhood statistics: 46% of mothers are in therapy

“I’m so grateful for my therapist and ability to have access to mental healthcare. It helps me to be a better mother. I wish everyone had the same accessibility.”

Amanda L.

Concerns about children’s health have also ticked up 9 points to 14%—perhaps related to the influx of flu, RSV and stomach virus cases seen recently, or even related to their children’s own mental health concerns. Despite media attention on parental conflicts with public schools, children’s education is at the bottom of the list, with only 3% saying they are worried about this.

Mental Health Table

This year finds an increase in the percentage of moms who have sought mental health therapy in the past year, to 46% from 43% in 2022. In addition, moms report using more sessions than last year, with 18% saying they have attended 11 or more therapy sessions this past year compared to 15% who reported 11 or more in 2022. The issues are the same as reported last year, with anxiety (32%), depression (12%), relationship (16%) and postpartum issues (15%) topping the list of reasons for seeking mental health support.

Related: Therapy made me a better mom—and wife

“I ended up on anxiety medication about a year ago because I got to the point where I could not handle [the mental load of motherhood]. My sleep was horrible as I was constantly in a state of worry about keeping everything in order, I was losing weight and was quite moody/irritable. Since then, I have also gotten into therapy, which has helped.”

Amy S.

On the other hand, there has been a slight decline in mothers reporting that their children are receiving therapy, down to 13% from 18% in 2022. This decline may indicate an easing of the mental health issues among young people brought on or exacerbated by Covid isolation, but it may also be due to a lack of access. “Accessing mental health care is something we have foregone. My insurance does not have accessible care and paying out of pocket is not a justifiable expense. Although we all could benefit from care, we’ve had to choose rent, food and gas,” says mom Danielle L. Among those who reported having a child in therapy, a third of them reported that it took between one and three months to get the first appointment, and another 12% said it took more than three months. Anxiety (27%) was reported to be the top reason for children receiving therapy.

Related: More moms are finally reaping the benefits of going to therapy—and so are their kids

8 in 10 mothers worry about a recession and are making preemptive cuts

Eight in 10 (80%) are concerned about a possible recession, 27% are very much concerned, and 71% report they are planning to cut back spending.

State of Motherhood statistics: 80% of mothers are concerned about a recession

“I feel constantly worried about money and definitely have been way more reluctant to spend money on anything.”

Sarah B.

With mothers making 85% of household purchase decisions, this sentiment represents an important economic indicator.

For those cutting back, entertainment and eating out tops the list, followed by spending on themselves. Children remain the spending priority, with only a third planning to cut back on toys and only 10% who say kids’ activities might be trimmed. “One of our children has an identified neurodivergence and was receiving occupational therapy to support his needs. We had to choose to stop attending because of the rising costs of gas and the lack of wage increases to meet inflation,” shares Danielle L.

Cutting Back Table

Mothers report feeling financially stressed—and while this abates a bit with higher income, it does not disappear. Nearly three-quarters of moms (72%) report feeling at least somewhat stressed about finances, which peaks at 86% among those with household incomes below the median (under $65,000) but only declines to 57% among those with incomes of $200,000 or more, meaning that even among the highest income households, a majority are stressed about money.

Stressed About Finances Table

“Due to inflation and the possibility of a recession, we are trying to pay off any debt we have as quickly as possible.”

Lauren S.

The financial stress faced by mothers is further compounded by unexpected expenses. In the event of an unexpected expense of $1,000, 23% of mothers report that they would need to charge it to a credit card. This highlights the vulnerability of many families, who may be living paycheck to paycheck and do not have sufficient emergency savings.

Furthermore, financial support from parents or family members is still a reality for many mothers, with 21% reporting that they receive occasional financial help. This trend is most common among younger mothers, with 39% of those under 30 receiving financial support from parents or family members. However, it remains a reality for mothers in their 30s and 40s, with 18% to 19% reporting that they receive financial assistance from family.

Related: It’s not the responsibility of moms to fix the economy

Read the full report.

METHODOLOGY STATEMENT

Motherly designed and administered this survey taken by 9,708 mothers through Motherly’s subscribers list, social media and partner channels. This report focuses on the Millennial/Gen Z cohort of 4,789 respondents aged 18-42. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.