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.