A common misconception about working moms is that they are on equal footing with working dads. We assume that if mom is working, the kids are in daycare or have a nanny, so moms who work are no different that dads who work.
We have to consider, though, what kind of support working moms and working dads have at home. It turns out working dads are much more likely to have solid support at home than working moms do. Dads are more likely to have a stay at home wife, or a wife who only works part-time. Dads are also less likely to be single parents.
All data comes from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Click here for details.
Spouse At Home
Working dads who are married are more likely to have a stay at home spouse. 29% of working dads have a stay at home wife, while only 5% of working moms have a stay at home husband.
Women are also more likely to work part-time, so even if both parents work, dads are more likely to have a wife who works just part-time, and is available at least part-time to manage family life. 14% of working dads have a wife who works part-time, whereas only 3% of working moms have a husband who works only part-time.
Adding together the green slices, 43% of working dads have a wife at home taking care of family life at least part-time, whereas only 8% of moms have a spouse at home managing things while they’re at work. Dads are 5 times as likely to be able to focus solely on work, put in extra hours, and generally not be pulled away to take care of home life because they have a spouse as backup to take care of those things.
Working moms are also significantly more likely to be single parents (yellow slice). Of the households where mom works, in 28% of them mom is single, so there is no spouse available to help her manage family life. Of the households where dad works, only 9% of those dads are single dads who are managing working and kids all on their own.
Division of Labor
From the orange slice above, we can see that women are also more likely than men to have a spouse who is also working full-time. 64% of women have a spouse who works full time, whereas only 48% of men do. To add to this imbalance, data from Pew Research show that even when both parents work full time, moms end up doing more of the childcare and housework. When both parents work full-time, mom is still more likely to:
- Volunteer at school
- Do meal planning, shop for groceries, and cook
- Do the laundry and kids’ clothes shopping
- Get kids up, fed, dressed, and out the door in the mornings
- Get kids bathed and in bed in the evenings
- Track and make kids’ medical appointments, research and choose doctors, take kids to their appointments and stay home with them when they’re sick
- Choose and sign up for kid activities, arrange and drive carpool
- Buy kids’ friends’ birthday presents
- Handle holiday celebrations, including coordinate with extended family, buy presents as needed, clean, shop, and cook
- Find and hire babysitters
- Read school newsletters, sign permission slips, track grades, help with homework, and communicate with teachers
- Plan, book, pack, and unpack for family vacations
Working Moms Have Less Support At Home
Although on the face of it it seems like working moms and working dads are on a level playing field, we need to recognize that for the vast majority of women, that’s not the case. More than one quarter of working moms are single moms, and another two thirds of them have a spouse who works full-time. For these women, more, if not all, of the childcare and housework falls to them.
The next time you are in a meeting at work, look around the room, and recognize that 92% of the moms in the room are either single moms or have a husband who is working full-time. The same is true for only slightly more than half the dads in the room.
Given this information, we shouldn’t be surprised that women make less than men, their careers advance more slowly, and they are less well-represented in government, in fortune 500 companies, etc. We need to recognize that working dads have significantly more support at home than working moms do.
The question is – should we try to address this, and if so, how?