Forty percent of families now have female breadwinners. Still, according to new research, women continue to take on a vastly disproportionate amount of the household and family responsibilities when compared with men.
Is shouldering this “mental load” the real reason you’re burning out?
Women do more at home, even when they’re breadwinners
New research from the childcare provider company Bright Horizons explores how working moms and dads divide household and other family responsibilities.
The findings were a part of their Modern Family Index 2017 report. Researchers analyzed survey results from 2,082 employed parents of at least one child under the age of 18. All surveys were completed online during October of 2017.
Researchers found that women are still the ones who are largely responsible for taking care of the family and the household. This is true regardless of other factors. Here are a few findings from the report:
- Breadwinning women are more likely than breadwinning men to be the keeper of the children’s schedules and appointments even when both parents work — 76 percent vs. 22 percent of the time.
- Sixty-three percent of female breadwinners volunteer at their children’s school, compared with 19 percent of male breadwinners.
- Sixty-three percent of working women say they have missed work to take care of their children when they were sick or when school was closed. Just 29 percent of working men can say the same.
- Seventy-one percent of female breadwinners say they are the ones who make sure all family responsibilities are handled. Just 38 percent of male breadwinners say they’re the one who play that role.
Moms tend to carry the majority of the “mental load”
Not everything about running a household and a family is simple or easy to measure. It’s not all about doing laundry, cooking meals, mowing the lawn and running errands. This new research is unique in that it tackles the question of who’s shouldering the bulk of the “mental load” when it comes to parenting and running a household.
The fact that women are the ultimate facilitators of the family’s responsibilities is significant. It takes time, not to mention energy, to keep track of appointments, scheduling and so on. Also, this role put moms in the hot seat when family members’ emotional needs require attention. She is seen as the family problem-solver.
It’s not difficult to understand why 52 percent of the women surveyed for this report said that they feel they’re burning out because of the weight of their household responsibilities.
Women’s professional lives take a hit
These findings line up with what other researchers have found in the past: women do more around the home and it takes a toll on their careers. As a result, some working moms even end up giving in to the financial pressure to stay home and raise kids instead of work, even when that’s not really what they want.
Employers ought to be mindful of these trends. In the end, it would be in their best interest to help working parents better attend to family responsibilities.
“By providing supports to working women, [employers] can help open up mindshare that can contribute even more to the workplace,” says Maribeth Bearfield, CHRO for Bright Horizons, in an interview with Fairygodboss. “And by creating environments where men are encouraged and valued for taking advantage of work/life supports as well, workplaces can start to catch up with the culture this generation of working families demands.”
The gender pay gap (and the opportunity gap) and women’s roles at home are inextricably linked. Until things are fair and equal at home, women can never really be equal at work.
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