Menu
Moms aren't naturally better at multitasking—they just have no choice

Moms are multitaskers because we have to be. 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.

For many moms, multitasking can feel like a superpower and for years, news headlines about women's supposedly superior multitasking skills have reflected this, calling us supermoms while suggesting that women are better at multitasking than men are.

But we are not, and new research proves it. A new study published in PLOS One debunks previous research that suggested women are super multitaskers. The brains of women and men are equally strained by multitasking.

Moms are not any better at multitasking than anyone else is. We are just doing more.

Indeed, our second annual State of Motherhood survey found that the majority of mothers are balancing paid work with a lot of responsibilities at home. More than 60% of mothers say they handle most of the household chores and responsibilities themselves and a similar share are so stretched for time they have less than an hour to themselves.

The myth of our multitasking abilities is a factor in this imbalance, this time crunch. By painting women as great multitaskers who are naturally wired to "do it all," society let itself off the hook when it comes to supporting moms.

Our survey found 85% of moms don't think society understands or supports them, and it's no wonder. We are supposedly multitasking supermoms, and super moms don't need support. By selling us the myth of our own superpowers, society ensured we wouldn't ask for help. We would just find a way to be the superheroes that the headlines suggest we are (and blame ourselves when we realize we're only human and can't actually multitask better than men).

As Leah Ruppanner, an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne points out for The Conversation, the new research into gender and multitasking is important because when we end the myth we can start supporting mothers. "Debunking these myths that expect women to be superheroes is a good thing, but we need to go further and create policy environments where gender equality can thrive."

This new research follows a 2011 study in the American Sociological Review which found that working mothers multitask about 10 hours more per week than working fathers do, and that the labor we're doing while multitasking is more intensive and stressful than the multitasking men take on.

"When they multitask at home, for example, mothers are more likely than fathers to engage in housework or childcare activities, which are usually labor intensive efforts," Shira Offer, the lead author of the study said when it was released.

She continued: "Fathers, by contrast, tend to engage in other types of activities when they multitask at home, such as talking to a third person or engaging in self-care. These are less burdensome experiences."

Interestingly, Offer and her colleagues found that for dads, this less demanding form of multitasking is a positive experience, but for moms, multitasking is a negative one: It makes them feel stressed and conflicted.

Maybe that's because, for fathers, multitasking momentarily does make them feel like a superhero, but for mothers—who are expected to be multitasking superheroes—it just makes us feel like failures.

Offer believes more flexible workplaces would benefit mothers by benefiting fathers: If more dads could start work later or leave early when they need to, Offer believes it would lead to more "egalitarian norms regarding mothers' and fathers' parenting roles."

The hard truth is, women and men perform equally poorly when multitasking, but women are doing more of it and are more stressed by it.

It's okay if you don't feel like a superhero, mama, because you're not. It's okay to drop some balls. It's okay if you don't feel like you were made for the extreme multitasking demanded of you because none of us were. We are only human and we can't do it all. The science shows it—and it's time for our policymakers to do something about it.

You might also like:

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

Shop

Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play