Blog Post

The Changing Face of Motherhood in America

More than 100 years later after President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Mother’s Day, the lives of women have changed in ways that have dramatically changed the face of motherhood – but the heart of motherhood remains unchanged.

According to a recent survey by Pew Research, today’s mothers are more educated, more involved in the work force, and more likely to be the sole breadwinner in a family. But that hasn’t changed the fact that they’re still the heart of the family.

Surprisingly, women are more likely to become mothers today than they were a decade ago. Pew found that the share of U.S. women ages 40-44 who had ever given birth in 2016 was 86 percent, up from 80 percent just ten years ago.

This is in spite of the fact that more mothers are working now than ever before. And even though these moms are spending more time in the labor force, they’re also spending more time tending their children.

“In 2016, moms spent about 25 hours a week on paid work, compared with nine hours in 1965. At the same time, they spent 14 hours a week on child care, up from 10 hours a week in 1965,” the report found.

Not surprisingly, 60 percent of working mothers are more likely than fathers (52%) to say balancing work and family is difficult. Another finding that will not surprise many women is the fact that in households where both parents work, more than half (54%) say the mother does more than the father when it comes to managing children’s schedules and activities.

Radical changes in the culture regarding marriage and family has resulted in one-in-four mothers raising children on their own. Even though 68 percent of U.S. mothers are married, 24 percent are on their own.

“All told, about 9 million mothers are living with a child younger than 18, without a spouse or partner,” the report found.

Compare this to solo parenthood among fathers of which there are just seven percent of dads raising a child without a partner in the home.

The report also found that the number of mothers living with an unmarried partner doubled from four percent in 1997 to eight percent in 2017.

Foreign-born mothers account for a rising share of U.S. births. In 2014, there were 58.3 births per 1,000 U.S.-born women ages 15 to 44; by contrast, there were 84.2 births per 1,000 foreign-born women. These births are responsible for boosting the U.S. fertility rate. And, because foreign-born mothers are less likely to be unmarried, they have also boosted the number of children who are being raised in intact families.

All in all, most babies born today (82%) are born to “Millennial moms” (women born from 1981 to 1996).

Another interesting finding is that in spite of the rise of “alternative families,” when it comes to children, a majority of Americans (71%) still believe it’s important for children to bond with a mother and father.

They also have some very traditional ideas about what is the best home-life situation for youngsters.

“When it comes to young children, most Americans say the ideal situation for those in a household with both a mother and a father is for one parent to work full time and one parent to work part time (36%) or not work outside the home (44%)," the report found.

Women also report feeling more pressure to be an involved parent (77% vs. 56% of men). More than half (53%) believe they spend the right amount of time with their children but 35 percent believe they don’t spend enough time with them. Among working women, those who believe they’re not spending enough time with their children rises to 43%.

But at the heart of the issue of mothering, the vast majority of women say being a parent is very or extremely important to their identity. The minute a child is born, they become someone new – a mother. And not only do they welcome these children into their world, they make these children their world.

Since the institution of Mother’s Day more than 100 years ago, the face of motherhood might have changed, but the heart of motherhood remains the same.

As Cardinal Gaspard Meymillod said so many years ago, “A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take."

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