“(My) husband (is now) working from home and able to help more with (our) new baby born during pandemic.”
“I have grown closer to my husband, who I hardly saw at all Monday – Friday. Mornings with the kids are also less rushed. Watching them learn and grow has been very joyful.”
“My employer has been very good to parents struggling during the pandemic. My husband’s employer has not – expecting employees to work through the night, rather than be at work less.”
We’ve heard from over 3,500 parents, mostly Moms (97%) who are married (77%) or co-habiting (10%) since March of 2020. And in the past three years what we expect from our most important relationships, including our partnerships, has changed. And we long for the dated gender norms, we reluctantly accepted, to end.
The majority of Moms in our study live with their spouses or partners. But in our most recent survey wave, having “nobody to help with” childcare (58%) and household work (59%) are among their biggest barriers to making time for self-care. That feeling, of being “alone” to manage unsustainable workloads, hurts Mothers and families. As one surveyed Mom shared, “I am always home with neurodiverse children and my husband is never home anymore. There is no respite. No break in routine. No hope.”
Cumulatively less than one third cite having partners who do ‘more‘ childcare (31%) or household work (30%) than pre-pandemic. Even though the effort and mental load has grown exponentially. So, how might we usher in change, real change, while we’re young enough to enjoy it?
The Marital Double-Bind Persists
Moms, partnered with Dads, often face a dilemma. If they’re in the paid workforce, gender inequality is exhausting at work. And at home, it erodes trust and creates friction. Yet most (64%) still want more time alone with their partners. They crave date nights and connection. But when childcare and household responsibilities aren’t shared, the lack of reciprocity, undermines that bond.
So, Many Couples Continue to Struggle With Each Other
“(I need) a break from reality, a break from the kids and spouse”.
“(The obstacles to self-care) My needy spouse and non-self-sufficient children
“(I am in) counseling with my spouse. Working toward a better unified relationship.”
In a Difficult Macro Climate
“I wish (my boss) understood the challenges of having a medically high maintenance child & spouse.”
“…(I’m a) new mom, sleep deprived, breastfed baby, dad works (and is) not around as much to help”
“(Being an) active-duty military spouse means relocating often and supports take time to rebuild to use. And my recently diagnosed ADD also explain a lot. Also, 4 kids, 2 of which step. It’s just a lot. And I don’t keep up.”
But We Can Begin to Evolve Gendered Norms
Motherhood comes with a distinct set of social rules that many of us feel limited by. And men, increasingly feel the same way, about traditional expectations for Dads. In his book, Fathering Together – Living a Connected Dad Life, Brian Anderson challenges many of the stories that Dads are raised with. Including what it means to be masculine. And that being a ‘good Father’ doesn’t mean only being a ‘good provider’ financially.
And our Work And Parenting Identities
In the book Brian details how our work-obsessed culture in the US also paints Dads into a box. “…We seek certifications and advanced degrees and network within business associations to meet the right people. To get the jobs we need to support ourselves and our families. A lot of us also put off having children because we want to ensure we are stable in our careers… to afford the lifestyle we will want with our children. …But what we’re actually doing, is creating patterns that will be difficult to break.”
He goes on to explain how, when offered, its still rare when Dads take their full paternity leaves. And in our study, we’ve heard that even in workplaces where Moms have more flexibility, support for caregiving, is not always extended to Dads.
To Incorporate More Partnership in the Home
In the book, Brian also recommends characteristics for Dads to develop. Especially if they’ve been socialized to not express emotions. His list includes: presence, emotional courage, expanded communication, acceptance for kids and themselves, cultivating a learning mindset, allyship, advocating for change, and finding community. He also begins the book by outlining ‘pre-work’ and changes in mindset to embrace the journey.
In and outside of our homes, we are still dealing with systems changes, which tend to be multi-generational and slow. So, feeling discomfort in this movement that few of us signed up for, is normal. More than that, it’s positive. Because maintaining pressure on this shift means it’s more likely to happen faster. And remember, as many of us celebrate Father’s Day and Juneteenth this weekend, history has shown that unequal systems don’t prevail.
Ready to put yourself back onto your to-do list? Take a TimeCheck.
Shared your story yet? Take our quick survey to change how workplaces support parents.
Employers, ready to rewrite hidden workplace rules? Become Allies@Work
Tags: equal marriages, equal partnerships in the home, Gendered norms in the home, Health marriages, Healthy couple relationships