No one expects a newborn baby to sleep soundly through the night, but society certainly expects new parents to get up and go to work as if they do.
The United States is the only member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without a national paid leave program for parents, and that's one of the reasons why America's moms are among the most stressed in the world. One reason for this stress? Moms are not getting the sleep they need, and they're going to work very tired.
A recent survey by Indeed found that the average new mom goes back to work after 10 weeks of leave and works for 15 weeks before her baby starts sleeping through the night, so super she's tired for about 105 days at the office. It is no wonder that 73% of the mothers polled said being tired at work was a significant challenge.
It's also no surprise that Indeed's survey found 10% of respondents decided to not return to work at all, but for many mothers in America, that simply is not a choice. Another survey conducted by HealthyWomen and the Mom Congress Coalition suggests that 52% of American moms are stressed about their family's budget, and our own 2019 State of Motherhood survey found that financial need is the top reason Millennial moms work, with 75% of respondents identifying this as their main reason for working.
Many mothers in America feel they have no choice but to return to the workforce because many households simply cannot survive on a single income these days. But even if employers can't implement longer parental leave policies right now, there is one thing many could do to ensure that their employees are as well-rested as possible: Let them sleep in.
A full 84% of first-time moms told Indeed they would benefit from "having more flexibility on what time they arrive to work in the morning," and being more flexible about things like start times and work-from-home days can help employers keep employees.
According to Indeed, 80% of the moms who didn't go back to work said the ability to work from home would change their minds and 50% said more flexible hours at the office would have done the trick. This is because (according to the numbers from HealthyWomen and the Mom Congress Coalition) more than half of moms worry about how their work schedule affects their family, and moms with kids under age 5 show the highest level of concern.
It is tricky to balance work and family. We know this. More than half (50%) of the moms who took part in our 2019 State of Motherhood survey say they made a change to their work status since becoming a mother. If employers can help us make small changes, we won't need to make big changes, like finding a new job or going part-time.
Bottom line: If employers want new parents to be alert and focused, recognizing that we have responsibilities outside of work will absolutely help. Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents to our survey said paid maternity leave is the top of their wish-list. On-site childcare or childcare subsidies comes in second at 21%, and nearly a third want flexible schedules or remote work opportunities.
Being able to come into the office an hour later than normal, or tackling your morning emails from home sounds like a really small piece of the puzzle, but it could make a huge difference in the life of a tired parent and make them more efficient and happier at work.