For many of us, motherhood is a dream fulfilled and a vocation chosen, and “Mama” is a name we wear like a badge of honor. Many of us wear it on our t-shirts, carry it on our coffee mugs and sign it on the notes we slip into lunch bags.
Countless generations of women have carried this title while carrying the weight of their families, but in 2019, to define oneself first and foremost as a Mama is a very Millennial thing to do. We see ourselves as moms supporting our families, and we need society to see us as worthy of support.
Last year, Motherly’s State of Motherhood survey found nearly 60% of Millennial moms feel that motherhood is what defines them the most, and when asked again in 2019, 67% of respondents told us that being a mother is a defining factor in how they see themselves. The number is higher for moms under 30—76% of moms under 30 feel most defined by motherhood, while just 62% of moms over 35 say the same.
This suggests that as moms (or maybe their kids) get older they are able to retain or re-connect with parts of their identity unrelated to parenting. This should be applauded, because while there is nothing wrong with seeing yourself as a mama first, mothers are also people with careers, hobbies and romantic lives.
Here are some additional key findings on the state of motherhood today:
Millennial mothers feel pressure to have sex
Becoming a parent puts a strain on all of those parts of a woman’s life. Many mothers feel pressure to get back to work, and even more feel pressure to get back to having sex with their partner. Almost a third of Millennial moms (31%) say they had postpartum sex with their partner before they felt ready to do so, but many, 53%, say they started to feel interested in sex again by 6 weeks after giving birth (and 11% were ready even earlier).
Moms under 30 report being ready for sex earlier than older mothers. Sixty-seven percent of moms under 30 were ready to have sex by six weeks postpartum, while only 54% of moms aged 30 to 34 and 44% of moms 35 and older said the same.
Pressure + progress at work
Our survey indicates that more than half of working moms (55%) feel that working has empowered or inspired them to be a better mom, and 90% say their work choice has helped them set a positive example for their children, but while working benefits motherhood, motherhood doesn’t benefit moms at work.
Fewer than 1-in-10 (9%) of Millennial moms feel like becoming a mother has helped them in their career, and the majority of those who do feel empowered at work (nearly 60%) say they have felt that way since shortly after giving birth, indicating that this empowering is coming from within these women, not because the workplace is recognizing their value.
Last year, 78% of moms agreed there are real career trade-offs made when a woman becomes a parent and this year, over half (51%) of the respondents told us they feel say, “discouraged: it’s extremely challenging managing trade-offs,” while a third (33%) say, “I feel optimistic, I believe it’s possible to combine them creatively.
There is room for optimism, certainly, but there is also room for work culture to be more accepting of working moms because the fact is, 53% of Millennial moms are working full-time and 15% are doing paid work part part-time.
Financial need is still the top reason for mothers choosing to work, but many, 49% of part-time working moms and 53% say they have a “desire to participate in work outside the household,” and 63% of the 28% of survey respondents who don’t work outside the home say they intend to return to the workforce in the future.
Mothers bear the burden of our work-first culture
Nearly 70% of working moms feel their employers are supportive of breastfeeding, which is great news, but there are other stressors that working moms wish employers would support them with.
Almost a quarter of mothers say longer, paid maternity leave would be the best way employers could support moms, while 21% are wishing for on-site day care or childcare subsidies. When these are combined, 45% of moms want more help from work in the transition to parenthood.
Flexible schedules and remote work opportunities are the second biggest request from moms.
Millennial mothers still lead on the home front
More than half of the moms surveyed reported downgrading their work hours since becoming a parent while 59% say their partner’s career has not changed and 31% said their partner has scaled up their career.
It’s 2019, but mothers are still taking on most of the household chores. Sixty-one percent of moms report handling most of the household chores and responsibilities themselves, with 32% saying they are shared equally. Only 5% of moms say their partner takes the lion’s share of the work.
For working moms, just 68% say they feel supported by their partners, and 28% say they feel supported “only sometimes.”
Millennial mothers say society doesn’t understand or support them
Last year Millennial moms told us that society doesn’t do a good job supporting mothers, but this year they screamed it. A full 85% of moms don’t think society understands or supports the women who are supporting the next generation.
This view is consistent across all groups regardless of race, ethnicity, age, number of children. We are all mamas. And we all need more support.