When asked about a host of potential threats to their children — including mental health challenges; bullying; kidnapping; physical attacks; problems with drugs or alcohol; being shot — mothers were consistently more worried than fathers, and Hispanic mothers in particular were more likely than White, Black or Asian mothers to say they were extremely or very worried that their children might face most of these experiences, according to the poll. The survey did not find a similar pattern in fathers of different races or ethnicities.
The findings of this report are striking in their reflection of modern motherhood. Mothers were more likely to admit that being a parent can be stressful and exhausting than fathers. Mothers reported that they are more involved in child-care management than their partners or spouses (most). Fathers believed that the division of labor was roughly equal. Mothers felt more judged by other people than fathers, and were more likely to do so than fathers. their spouses or partners for the way they parent their children — including by relatives, friends and other parents in their communities. They were also more likely to say that being a parent has been “a lot harder” than they had expected (30 percent of mothers gave this answer, compared with 20 percent of fathers).
Mothers are more likely than fathers to see parenthood as their defining characteristic. Thirty-five per cent of mothers viewed being a parent the most important part of their identity, while only 24 percent said the same for their fathers.
Rachel Minkin, Pew’s research associate, co-wrote this report. She noted the connections between survey responses.
“Moms see the work of parenting as very important, but also more tiring and stressful,” she said — which perhaps isn’t surprising given that mothers also report doing more of the work when it comes to child care. “Moms say they are more worried, and then when it comes to parenting styles, moms are also more likely than dads to say they tend to be overprotective. So you can see how these issues might inform one another.”
Since 2015, this is the first comprehensive Pew survey of parenting in the United States. The previous report’s findings Survey revealed the difficulties faced by working parents. Both mothers and fathers reported that they struggle to balance professional responsibilities with parental responsibilities. Parents also shared concerns about their children’s mental and physical safety.
Since then, stress has only increased. The pandemic added to the strain on working mothers, and last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that there would be a sharp decline in mental health in adolescents and teens.
It is not acceptable to be a working mom
Mothers feel the most scrutinized by others as they help parents navigate this complex landscape. Mothers were more likely to say they feel judged for their parenting decisions “at least sometimes” by their own parents (47 percent) or by their spouses or partner’s parents (45 percent). Also, mothers are more likely than fathers to feel judged by their children’s parents at least occasionally (41% of mothers compared to 27% of fathers). On the other hand, fathers were more likely to feel judged by their partners or spouses for how they raise their children.
Yet, even as they are faced with a multitude of challenges, the vast majority of parents — about 8 in 10 mothers and fathers — said that being a parent is enjoyable (82 percent) and rewarding (80 percent) all or most of the time.
The survey offers an illuminating snapshot of what parenting feels like to families in the turbulent current moment, Minkin says: “It is interesting for us to be able to do this survey now.”