Motherhood, harder than expected

Women having kids today grew up believing they can combine maternity and work but new research shows we were sold a lie. 

Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Motherhood, harder than expected - NewsMavens
Vintage drawing of woman. Pixabay

Why this story matters:

Women trying to combine work and child rearing are usually experiencing enormous pressure -- though we mostly keep it to ourselves because we were raised to believe that the world has become progressive enough to allow us to pursue our careers while having children. 

But new research from the U.S. is finally confirming what many of us had felt was true.

Both parenting and the job market have become increasingly demanding, just as women raised to believe they can do it all are having their first kids.

More than our parents, we're dedicating time to our kids, breastfeeding longer, going to children's clubs with them and keeping them away from screens. Meanwhile, the job market has become more precarious and pressing -- we either work terribly long hours, or we have insecure positions, or both. Managing both is impossible. 

More often than men (who seem to be less bothered by this), women find themselves turning to traditional gender roles as a result of the combined pressure. They do not return to the labor market as fast as they'd like after having a child despite loving their job. 

So we're either sacrificing our careers, or driving ourselves crazy. 

(Yes, I type this as my kid is desperately trying to pull me away from the computer -- her childcare is closed because the teacher's son is sick.)

Details from the story:

  • Women today, especially educated ones, underestimate the costs of motherhood, according to new research by Ilyana Kuziemko and Jenny Shen of Princeton, Jessica Pan of the National University of Singapore and Ebonya Washington of Yale.
  • The share of women in the United States labor force has leveled off since the 1990s, after steadily climbing for half a century. Today, the share of women age 25 to 54 who work is about the same as it was in 1995.
  • Motherhood became more demanding. Parents now spend more time and money on child care. They feel more pressure to breastfeed, to do enriching activities with their children and to provide close supervision.
  • Fathers were less likely than women to say that parenthood was harder than they expected. (Women still do the bulk of child care, even in two-earner families.)
  • Women's expectations are not met by the reality of the job market, public policies on family, and division of tasks at home. 
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