Being married doesn't lessen a mother's mental load, says recent study

Married moms spend about 32 minutes more each day on household chores than single moms, but researchers don't know why.

Being married doesn't lessen a mother's mental load, says recent study

Motherhood is incredibly hard no matter how your life looks. Whether you're working or staying at home, have one kid or many, are married or single—moms don't have a lot of time. But a recent study illuminated how having a partner doesn't always mean a mother has more time to herself.

When it comes to housework and sleep, married mothers are doing more than single moms and getting less sleep, which is concerning and says a lot about gender roles in our society.

The results of this study track with Motherly's own data from our 2019 State of Motherhood survey, which found the majority of partnered moms report handling most household chores and responsibilities themselves and 62% report having less than an hour to themselves.

Our survey data is recent, but sociologists from the University of Maryland and the University of Southern California used data collected between 2003 and 2012 via the American Time Use Surveys to recently conclude that married women are doing more housework.

It would be easy to look at this finding and think "but married moms have a partner who can pick up some of the slack"—but the researchers theorize that mothers who are in heterosexual marriages are victims of gender norms that dictate certain behaviors for men and women.

We know that dads want to be doing more at home, but societal norms and workplace culture often keep them from doing that. With that in mind, it may stand to reason that married mothers feel more personal responsibility to cook meals, clean, fold laundry and the like.

According to the study, married moms spend about 32 minutes more each day on household chores. They also spend an average of 10 daily minutes less on leisure time and sleep for 13 minutes less each night. It may not seem like much, but those differences add up over time.

"The idea that a mother does more housework when she has a partner or spouse may sound counterintuitive, but it's the reality in most American households," says demographer Linda Jacobsen, vice president of U.S. Programs at Population Reference Bureau (PRB). "What we don't know is why mothers feel compelled to do more housework when there's a man in the house."

Now, of course, these findings aren't absolute. There are definitely differences from family to family and mother to mother. Still, these findings are worth considering. Also worth considering? Married moms presumably have one additional person at home (on top of however many kids they have), which may explain why there's more work to be done.

Let's make one thing very clear: We are in no way saying married moms have it harder than single moms, and the researchers aren't making that claim either. It's senseless to play the comparison game, and all moms are total rockstars.

One important finding actually points to how universal the experience of motherhood is: Both single and married moms appear to spend the same amount of time caring for their children, according to the research.

You might also like:

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less

There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

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

Our Partners

A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

Keep reading Show less