From the “we kind of already knew it, we just didn’t want to think about it” files comes the latest study that shows just how hard mums are working. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot.
Market researchers OnePoll, on behalf of nutrition brand Welch’s, studied 2000 US mums with kids aged five to 12 and found they’re clocking up an average of 98 hours a week of paid and unpaid work. The average mum starts working at 6:23am and finishes her working day at 8:31pm.
That’s the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs. No wonder we’re all so tired.
Researchers said four out of every 10 mums said their week feels like a never-ending series of tasks to complete. Looking at the data, that would be because it is.
Casey Lewis, Welch’s Health and Nutrition Lead told Yahoo! News that the results of the survey shed light on just how demanding the role of mum can be thanks to the “non-stop barrage of tasks”.
“Busy mums may identify with the list of ‘lifesavers’, which highlights not just a rigorous workload but a constant requirement to feed and fuel the family, week in and week out,” Dr Lewis told Yahoo! News.
Of course, it’s not just the endless tasks that are wearing mothers out, there’s also the infamous “mental load” – the responsibility for running the house, ensuring everyone knows what they need to be doing and where they need to be, and overseeing the lot.
It’s that running commentary in all of our brains, the constant “how am I going to manage all of these competing priorities?” thoughts, and the invisible work we’re doing to manage the actual tasks we have that many of us find most exhausting. And there’s no way to measure that.
Add to that the “motherhood penalty” we pay in the workplace where we’re discriminated against, paid less than our male counterparts, or struggle to find roles that work around our family commitments. Cornell University found mothers are half as likely to be called back for jobs than other job applicants. And another study found, while men’s salaries increase by 6 per cent when they have children, women’s salaries decrease by four per cent for every child they have.
The grass isn’t necessarily greener for women who do earn more money though. A study by Bright Horizons found that, even as the percentage of female breadwinners increases, women still take on the majority of household and family responsibilities.
In fact, the opposite is true. The household duties for working mothers actually increase when women are the ones bringing home the primary salary. Breadwinning mothers in married households, for example, are three times more likely to be the keepers of their children’s schedules, compared with breadwinning fathers in married households.
They’re also three times more likely to volunteer at their kids’ schools, and nearly twice as likely to ensure all family responsibilities are taken care of.
That’s why the only surprise about the 69 per cent of working mums who say their responsibilities at home and at work create a hefty mental load is that the number isn’t higher. And the same goes for the 52 per cent who report burning out due to that mental load they’re constantly carrying.
More women are in the workforce than ever before, but the balance of the workload at home is yet to catch up. Something has to give.