Since lockdown, 12% of partners have stepped up to split household duties equally

For too long our society has allowed mothers' labor to remain invisible, even to their partners.

Since lockdown, 12% of partners have stepped up to split household duties equally

The coronavirus pandemic has changed every facet of our lives, and while school closures mean mothers are bearing the burden of additional responsibilities at home there is hope for a more equal future.

Motherly's third annual State of Motherhood survey shows how the quarantine is changing the way American mothers and their partners are splitting household responsibilities. We know that mothers don't want to go "back to normal" because normal is burning them out—this generation wants and needs a better normal when all this is over, and they're already building it with their partners.

From March to April there was a 12% increase in splitting household responsibilities equally.

We know this because 3,195 U.S. Millennial mothers took our annual State of Motherhood survey conducted from March 9 to March 23, 2020, but with so much changing due to COVID-19, Motherly conducted an additional survey between from April 15 to 23, 2020, with 3,169 respondents to ensure the impact of COVID-19 was reflected in our results.

America's mothers are experiencing an acute burnout, but partners who are spending more time at home now are doing more around the house and that is a good first step toward post-pandemic equality.

While many gender experts worry that the pandemic will mean a return to the 1950s in terms of gender roles at home, the results of the third annual State of Motherhood survey support the hypothesis presented by Matthias Doepke and Jane Olmstead-Rumsey of Northwestern University, Titan Alon of the University of California San Diego and Michèle Tertilt of the University of Mannheim in a recent research paper on gender equality and the pandemic.

As CNN reports, the researchers predict that in the short term, the pandemic will see mothers carrying a heavier load when it comes to childcare, but forecast a lasting change in gender dynamics in the longer term. "Even while women carry a higher burden during the crisis, it is still highly likely that we will observe a sizeable impact of this forced experiment on social norms, and ultimately on gender equality, in the near future," the researchers conclude.

Our survey results show that millennial mothers—who were already reporting a significant amount of burnout pre-COVID-19—are absolutely feeling the effects of not having adequate childcare, citing it as the biggest source of stress in their lives right now.

The split of household duties is changing

Our initial survey in March found most moms (63%) report handling childcare and household responsibilities mostly on their own. Only 30% report these duties are shared with a partner and just 4% say their partner takes care of most of the household responsibilities. But the pandemic has already changed this dynamic.

From March to April there was a 4% increase in the number of moms who report their partner is not working, and there has been a 12% increase in splitting household responsibilities equally, with 42% of moms reporting they split equally with their partners, compared to 30% reporting the same a month earlier.

Even for those who are now splitting caregiving responsibilities equally, they are reporting that childcare is their main cause of stress right now, at 35.6%. This cohort consists mostly of mothers with partners who are both working from home full-time, at 47% and 45% respectively. They are also splitting household responsibilities at a much higher rate as well, at 64%. The difference in who is buying groceries is also less, with moms reporting 43% of the time while their partners are at 51% (8% difference).

Invisible labor becomes visible during the pandemic

Moms' partners are doing more at home, and they should be. As Motherly has previously reported, research suggests that if men do just 50 minutes more household labor per day we could close the gender gap, but societal issues—especially a lack of flexible work and parental leave—reinforce outdated gender norms that do not serve the modern family.

For too long our society has allowed mothers' labor to remain invisible, even to their partners, but researchers suggest that much like how Spain's paternity leave program resulted in dads desiring fewer kids, the COVID-19 crisis is forcing American fathers to reevaluate whether the status-quo is really working for their families.

As Doepke, Olmstead-Rumsey, Alon and Tertilt explain: "During the current crisis, many millions of men are on a form of forced paternity leave for a much longer period, and a sizable fraction will be the main providers of childcare during this time."

Motherly's third annual State of Motherhood Survey is proving that out, and proving that the social support mothers have been calling for (namely parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible work options) will be necessary for America's recovery. Without them, this newfound gender equality will be lost and that is not good for mothers, fathers or America's next generation.

America's mothers need more support outside the home

Every year America's mothers tell us society is not supporting them. Our first annual State of Motherhood survey in 2018 found 74% of respondents felt society was not supporting moms. In 2018 that was up to 85% and this year it's again increased: Now, 89% of mothers do not feel society is supporting them and 97% report feeling burned out by motherhood at least some of the time.

These women are telling us what they need and it's not just support from their partners but support from their employers, too. Survey respondents say employers could better support mothers through longer, paid maternity leave (20%) and on-site childcare or childcare subsidies (23%), and when asked what change they most want to see in the workplace after COVID-19, working mothers mostly want more flexibility for themselves or their partners (30%),

Flexibility and paid parental leave not just for mothers, but their partners, too, is key in hanging on to the newfound gender equality happening in American households. For years Millennial fathers have been telling us that they want to be equal parents but that work and gender roles are holding them back. Our partners are now doing their part, it's time for society to support them in supporting us.

It shouldn't have taken a pandemic to force our partners, employers and political leaders to see our invisible labor: But now that they have, we can't let the world go back to ignoring it.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!

A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.


A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.


A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.


A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.


A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.


A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.


A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.


A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.


An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.


A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.


And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

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With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

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