Motherly's 2021 State of Motherhood Survey Results

It's time to change the way we talk about motherhood.

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It's time to change the way we talk about motherhood.

For too long, topics like maternal health and affordable childcare have been labeled as "women's issues"—and not prioritized by leaders in government. Modern mothers need a voice. We need a seat at the table. We need legislators to understand that what they call "women's issues" actually impact everyone.

Motherly is the voice of modern motherhood—that's why we take this so seriously. With a 30M+ multi-platform audience, we represent today's mothers. We're here to elevate your voices, your concerns and your successes with our annual State of Motherhood survey. Over 11,000 women answered our fourth annual State of Motherhood survey, which was designed and administered by Motherly. It was run between March 1-14th, 2021. Edge Research weighed the data to align with US Census demographic data, ensuring results are a statistically accurate representation of today's millennial mother.

Among the key findings:

Mothers are burned out


93% of mothers reported feeling burned out, at least occasionally. That's up 7 points from last year's survey. Even more, mothers are feeling burned out more frequently (43%, up from 35%) or worse, they're feeling burned out all the time (16%, up from 6%).

Why are mothers so burned out? For starters, they don't feel supported at home. 45% of mothers report being the primary caregiver for children in the household during the day, with Black mothers the most likely to say so at 53%. While about a quarter of mothers (26%) have a childcare provider for support, very few (4%) have a partner who takes the primary caregiver role or even shares the responsibility equally (10%).

Contributing to this feeling, 69% of mothers (62% of employed mothers, 90% of non-employed mothers) say they devote 5 or more hours a day to child/household duties, but only 13% of partners (if in a relationship) devote the same amount of time. The reported norm for the partner's daily household contributions is 1-2 hours (41%).

Mothers are bearing the burden of childcare and household duties —and their partners are not sharing that responsibility equally. Mothers are tired—figuratively and literally. 89% of mothers report getting less than 8 hours of sleep each night. Whether that's because they're staying up late or waking early to keep their household and careers running, or it's because they're getting up in the middle of the night with their kids, mothers are tired.

Lack of adequate sleep is more common among non-white mothers, too. 41% of women of color report getting five hours or less of sleep a night, compared to 27% of white mothers.

Some mothers are turning to alcohol and cannabidiol (CBD) to help cope with the stress of parenting, burnout, and the pandemic. Since the pandemic started, 10% of mothers began or increased their use of CBD. That figure doubles when it comes to alcohol: 1 in 5 mothers (20%) report beginning or increasing their use of alcohol as a means to cope.

Mothers aren't getting nearly enough time for themselves, either. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say within the last 24 hours, they had less than one hour to themselves without work or family obligations.

What does this all add up to? Mothers aren't getting enough sleep or time for themselves. They're shouldering extra work and feeling unsupported at home. It's no wonder, then, that nearly all mothers say they're burned out. We're exhausted—and not just from lack of sleep.

Mothers are having less sex

41% of millennial mothers say they're having less sex as a result of the pandemic, too.

After a year that forced many of us to spend more time at home and with our partners than ever before, why is it that we're having less sex?

The inability to find time to spend with their partner ranks as the number one overall relationship tension for mothers. Sex life (or a lack of one) ranks as the second.

In a pandemic world, parents aren't able to carve out time for date night or time with just each other. And their sex lives are suffering because of it. The pandemic has also caused mothers to reevaluate their plans to have children.

Overall, just 39% of mothers say they intend to have more children—a full 12 points lower than 2019. While most (40%) say the pandemic has not impacted their family planning, nearly 1-in-5 say it has, with 13% saying they are waiting for the pandemic to resolve before having more children and 6% saying they are no longer planning to conceive or adopt.

Mothers might be having less sex because they're also less interested in getting pregnant during a global pandemic.

Whether it's because we're rethinking how to build our families or because it's harder to find alone time with our partners, the pandemic has changed mothers' sex lives

Society is failing mothers

Many mothers don't feel supported at home–and most mothers say they're also not supported by their communities and society at large.

92% of mothers feel society doesn't do a good job of understanding or supporting motherhood. This is a sentiment that has grown in strength every year we've conducted this survey—from 74% in 2018, 85% in 2019, 89% in 2020, to this year's high.

Why do so many mothers feel so unsupported?

68% of mothers need more emotional support, encouragement and empathy. 67% of mothers need more caregiving support—they need help watching and raising their children. 51% of mothers would like more acceptance and reassurance-based support. We need help. We need kindness and empathy. And we need those things from government policies, our communities and each other.

It takes a village. Mothers don't have one.

Most mothers (67%) report having family nearby (either theirs or their partner's)—more so for Latinx mothers (70%) than Black mothers (62%). Only 8% of millennial mothers report living in a multi-generational household and feelings about them are mixed: two-thirds (65%) say it helps them "feel more support" but a third (31%) say it's a "burden because I have to support more people emotionally and/or financially."

More than half (56%) of mothers lack a non-family "village" they can call on for support. That's a jump of 15 points from last year's 41%. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we interact with just about everyone, that significant jump makes sense—but is still disheartening.

Non-family support declined the most for white mothers (down 16 points from 61% to 44%) and Latinx mothers (down 15 points from 56% to 41%) and the least for Black mothers (down 7 points from 57% to 50%).

Nearly a quarter (23%) of mothers say they never have unpaid child minding, too. Access to that kind of support is widely varied with non-working mothers least likely to get free help and working mothers most likely to get it more than once a week.

We know it takes a village to raise a child. But many mothers don't have access to a village—and it's affecting how they raise their children.

Mothers are struggling to balance careers + motherhood

Mothers are struggling to balance the emotional and physical needs of their families with their careers.

61% of mothers returned to work from maternity leave before they felt emotionally or mentally ready. We are headed back to work before we truly feel ready—and it takes a toll.

30% of mothers believe it's possible to combine their careers and motherhood creatively. But more (34%) say they're frustrated: they want to do both but it's just not realistic. 17% of mothers say juggling both is "impossible." A mere 6% of mothers feel empowered and say that becoming a mother has helped them in their career.

When asked how employers can better support them, working mothers are clear: longer, paid maternity leave (64%), increased position flexibility (58%) and support for childcare, either on-site or through subsidies (53%).

In fact, just about half of mothers (48%) that are working have considered leaving the workforce because of the cost of childcare. This holds true across mothers of all races and ethnicities, and is especially high (59%) among mothers that work part-time.

The ability to pay for childcare underscores the different realities of mothers with more economic means from those without. Fully 31% of mothers say they are "always" or "often" under financial stress or hardship to pay for childcare, with another 30% saying "sometimes" and 29% reporting "rarely" or "never" feeling financial stress around paying for childcare. Black mothers are the most likely to report financial stress (46% always/often) followed by Latinx mothers (38%) and white mothers are the least likely to have financial issues with childcare (25%).

We know that the pandemic has only increased the career struggles that mothers face.

64% of working mothers say their child and household duties have harmed their paid work in the last year. Having a child or home should not negatively impact your work—and yet, in the age of COVID-19 when children moved to virtual schooling overnight and mothers overwhelmingly took on the burden of childcare and household duties while navigating their own professional ambitions, it often did.

The pandemic also left most mothers (73%) feeling like they were failing to fulfill expectations for their family. We know that mothers are the masters of multitasking—but even masters need support. Mothers need more from their employers and partners to balance the needs of their families and careers.

Support for mothers is non-partisan

We know that 93% of mothers report feeling burned out, at least some of the time. Our study also found that 92% of mothers support legislative action to increase support for childcare and/or parental leave. These aren't partisan issues—they affect everyone.

Millennial mothers also support free, universal pre-k (74%), refundable tax credits to help pay for childcare (75%) and improved pay/benefits for childcare workers (72%).

Overall, 85% of mothers say they would support or vote for a political candidate who supported childcare legislation that did more to actively support mothers, regardless of that candidate's party affiliation.

Mothers are a powerful voting bloc: they want what's best for their children and they're willing to use their voting ballots to get it.

Mothers as a force for change

For the first time, this year we asked mothers about the issues they actively support. The priority of issues differs across racial categories, with paid family leave, affordable childcare and racial justice cutting across all groups.

Here are the top five:

We know these are the issues that are important to modern mamas. We know that they're willing to use their voices and financial contributions to effect change.

While mothers have strong opinions on issues that affect their children and families—and they're willing to vote across party lines to affect legislative change—our survey revealed that only 19% of mothers report being actively engaged in advocacy action in the support of mothers.

Why are relatively few mothers involved in advocacy for other mothers? Perhaps because they're burned out, used to putting the needs of others first. Perhaps because, for too long, mothers have been overlooked and undervalued.

Here's what we learned, though: when given a platform, mothers will use their voice to help others.

Mothers need to be taken seriously: as professionals, partners, voters and individuals. That's why we conduct this annual survey —we understand the importance of giving a voice to this generation of women. Because we know that when mothers thrive, families and communities thrive.

METHODOLOGY STATEMENT

Motherly designed and administered this survey through Motherly's subscribers list, social media and partner channels, resulting in more than 11,000 responses creating a clean, unweighted base of 7,816 responses. This report focuses on the Millennial cohort of 5,809 respondents aged 25-40. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.