Moms are multitasking more than ever before and it’s burning us out

Before the pandemic moms were already multitasking too much. Motherhood and multitasking are so linked in our culture that it can feel like a superpower, and years of news headlines about women's supposedly superior multitasking skills have reenforced this by suggesting that women are better at multitasking than men are.

But the science has shown that we are not. We are no more better suited to multitasking than men are, and the pandemic is forcing us to do more of it than ever before. New research suggests mothers in heterosexual marriages are now multitasking to the point of burning out—and this could create another crisis while we're already dealing with COVID-19.

We can't afford to let America's moms, the ones who are holding families and households together during the fight against coronavirus burn out. We need to address this now, because we can't afford to adhere to outdated gender norms in this economy. Moms are increasingly the breadwinners in American families, but still have to fight the perception that a father's job is the most important one in the household.

"In a lot of cases, gender trumps money," researcher Kristin Smith who wrote her Ph.D dissertation on the topic of gender roles tells CNN. "Our social roles are so much more powerful in decision-making than money."

It's hard to fight those social roles, and even dads who consider themselves feminists may leave certain things to a multitasking mom because of ingrained cultural norms.

We learn how to feed the baby while cooking dinner because the children are hungry.

We learn how to shower while simultaneously entertaining a toddler because even dry shampoo has its limits.

We learn how to answer emails with one hand while serving breakfast with the other while simultaneously tracking down lost shoes because there is no other choice.

And while dads do learn to multitask, the average mom does about 10 hours more multitasking per week than her male partner (and those are pre-pandemic numbers) and it's why fathers are, in general, happier than moms.

But we also know that they want to share that happiness and be more equal parents, but feel gender norms are holding them back. The pandemic is forcing so much unfortunate change on American families, but there is one kind of change that could be good by helping moms multitask less and giving dads the space to be full parents.

Work is still work even when it isn't paid

It is unfair to say that nothing has changed for stay at home parents, because they are doing more than ever before. When moms are not engaged in paid work they are often expected to do the majority of the childcare, but with many working partners now at home now is a chance for them to get more involved with the caregiving (and take some responsibilities off mom's plate).

Stay at home parents' workloads have increased at the same time as stress, anxiety and financial pressure have. Now is the time for partners to come together and have serious conversations about managing workloads. Everyone needs a break, even mom. Just because you're used to being an at-home parent does not mean you are used to this much pressure and the constant demands of raising children without childcare, school or social support.

How moms and dads can prevent a family breakdown by pivoting to "breadsharing"

Moms can't keep going at the pace they are. Many are working from home right now while attempting to homeschool and manage most of the childcare duties. There are only so many hours in the day and moms are burning out.

As Michelle P. King, author of The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work writes for Working Mother, "The Pandemic is the Perfect Time for Men to Embrace 'Breadsharing' Instead of Breadwinning."

In that piece King explains that this lockdown is giving us the opportunity for a cultural reset that frees dads from the confines of the breadwinner identity and frees moms from content multitasking."[M]anaging the integration of work and home life has never been more challenging. And it's falling disproportionately on women, who remain the default caretaker, teacher and chef, regardless of whether they also have a job," King writes.

Now is the time to change the dynamic by doing what Jules Barrueco suggests in her piece for InStyle: Admit that Mom's career is just as important as Dad's. This means that sometimes moms are going to have to draw a line on how much multitasking we can do and demand our partners do some, too.

"[S]ometimes advocating for the future of your career means standing before your partner with knots in your hair, with only five and a half painted toenails, wearing a pajama-outfit you've been wearing for one day too many, asking him to change the damn diaper because you're in the middle of a project. It means telling him you have an important call, so his fourth of the day will simply have to wait. It means handing him the plunger and letting him worry about what's happening on the other side of that door," Barrueco writes.

The workday is now 3 hours longer—this isn’t sustainable for parents

The workday is 3 hours longer now, and this isn't sustainable for moms

Moms have less time to themselves than ever before, and what we're doing right now (working remotely while also trying to teach fourth grade science) isn't flexible work, it's crisis mode.

People working from home are working three hours longer per day than before the pandemic, Bloomberg reports, in part because we're always online and also thanks to constant interruptions from children.

As CNBC reports, NordVPN recently did an analysis of the activity on its network and found that since mid-March the average worker in the Unites States is working three hours more per day, and that in the U.K., France, Spain and Canada, people are working two hours more per day than they did pre-pandemic.

This one-hour difference suggests U.S.-based workers may feel particularly overwhelmed right now and that companies, communities and leaders at every level need to consider new ways to support work-life balance in this time.

For moms especially, dealing with childcare, distance learning and work can mean the day never ends and that work is constantly interrupted.

Rachel Mushahwar, the vice president and general manager of U.S. sales and marketing at Intel, tweeted: "My 14 year old is taking French class in bed, my 12 year old is asking for food I don't have, my 10 year old is refusing to read, and my 8 year old is in my lap while on calls learning to multitask."

Mushahwar is obviously very good at multitasking, but that's also a recipe for burnout.

It's time for a conversation about moms and multitasking, because the truth is we're not any better at it than anyone else, we're just forced to do it. And we can't keep this up forever.

[A version of this post was originally published on April 24, 2020. It has been updated.]

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

Keep reading Show less

Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

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

Our Partners

Is this viral bedtime chart realistic for most parents?

Some of the recommendations feel impractical—especially for working parents.

In 2015 a teacher at an elementary school in Wisconsin posted a 'bedtimes by age' chart to Facebook, and parents are still commenting on this post nearly four years later.

The teacher who posted the chart, Stacy Karlsen, didn't create it, she just found it, she told Fox 6 back in 2015. She thought the parents of the 200 or so kids at Wilson Elementary would find the chart as helpful as she did, but the post's viral reach went far beyond her intended audience.

Keep reading Show less