Beyond The Brunch, Flowers, and Syrupy Ads, Here Is What Mothers Really Want This Mother's Day
Happy Mother’s day! Breakfast in bed, flowers, jewelry, spa appointments anyone?
I love those too and they should make us all happy because it shows that our partners and loved ones really do care. However, I cannot help but wonder if this truly erases the hardships of motherhood this mother’s day. I cannot help but wonder what employers and society could start doing to truly make this day feel truly special.
In the last one year, as the Founder & CEO of Mother Honestly, I have spoken to thousands of mothers across the country about how they are combining work and family. As women earn more degrees, become breadwinners, and continue to rise in corporate America, a few things have changed at home and at work. Although dads are taking on more parenting responsibilities now more than ever, survey shows that it is still not close to being equal in more than half of households even when both parents work full-time. I can certainly personally attest to this. As a full-time working mother with an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering and a graduate degree in Energy Management, who currently runs a business (this platform), while finishing up my MBA at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, I can assure you, I still rush home every single evening to make dinner, clean-up and ensure we are caught up on homework, activities, and more.
While my husband is amazing in that he shoulders all of the maintenance of the house, yard and more, I can’t help but feel that he has more free time every evening than I do. That he doesn’t get to put puzzle pieces together in his head on the best affordable venue for our son’s birthday, or what the entire family is wearing for our next family photoshoot since we’ve not had one in five years. The truth is, I carry majority of the mental overload that comes with ensuring all of our activities are in alignment including doctors appointments, soccer practice, finding age-appropriate toys, ensuring the growing kids have enough clothing, toothbrush and toothpaste. Let’s not forget the groceries and having to figure out who is best to pick-up last minute items such as milk and eggs because mama miscalculated how much we needed when she Amazon-primed over the weekend. Shout out to Amazon Prime, Instacart, Kroger Clicklist, and other stores who have stepped up in this area to make women’s lives easier. The funniest thing is that we found that outsourcing is still a source of shame for many women, go figure.
The reality as Sandra Ali of Local 4 NBC News, Detroit puts its is that “no matter what the partnership looks like at home, moms will always have a special role." That sentence stuck with me for a very long time. Mothers are truly special at home, and none of that will change for years to come and I don’t know that I want that to change at all.
However, millions of women across America are shouldering so much at home, pulling the second and sometimes the third-shift if they are attending school, working on their side gig, hello gig economy and more. Here are the stats, there are over 73% of women (aged 25-54) in corporate America today, and over 70 percent of women with children under 18 work, how can we support these women so that they can live fulfilled, healthier and happier lives? What does support look like and what do mothers really want beyond the mother’s day brunch, mushy ads and flowers?
What Mothers Want
a 360-degree analysis and view from real moms
We Want Men To Participate With Limited Instructions
Studies show that when the average man does help around the house, he tends to take on tasks that are less time sensitive and easily outsourced according to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group. We need men to help with time-critical activities such as housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, preparing the kids for bed without women telling them to do so. Because the reality is, having to give instructions and manage the task is a full-time job and takes up space mentally. Men should be able to step in naturally without formal or informal direction. For example, 75% of women are more likely to stay home when a child is sick compared to dad. Recently, I had to simply wait for my husband to suggest that he could stay home with our sick son due to a high-profile meeting I had with clients at work. Typically, the default parent who stays home even in a house where the woman is the breadwinner when a child is sick is the mom. And over 40% of women are breadwinners today, according to a Pew Study.
We Want Subsidized childcare and early childhood education
The average childcare cost in America is over $12,000, with most families in a recent Mother Honestly poll spending more in childcare than they do on their mortgage, some double. The economy is hot hot hot, the stock market is at an all-time high, companies like Amazon are making billions of dollars without paying federal taxes but ya know who is feeling whose back thats riding on? Working families. According to Anesia Auguste, a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in a recent facebook post “Our biggest pain is actually finding affordable quality care. Right now, daycare is double our mortgage and there was a long waitlist. We had to make a deposit for her [baby] spot 5 months prior to her starting. Next, is finding care when I have to travel to conferences, since my husband works too, it's hard to find the balance.” Add on after school care, drop-offs and pickups, snow days and all of that is enough to make a mama pull her hair out. “We have 2 hr delays and snow days at the drop of a hat. It is horrible. You can't plan for it and there is no alternative. Please help!” adds Amanda Thompson. It’s why we’ve started advocating for self-care for women, so that we can take the time we need to get our complete schlep together. It’s also why most women choose to step out of the workforce or get off leadership tracks to manage the incessant responsibilities of household and family care.
We Want Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexiblity can help dual-career couples, especially women to achieve balance and alignment between work and home. Flexibility in the form of remote work, shifts in working hours and the ability to leave occasionally when issues arise. According to Erica Kommer, a Marketing Leader “Even when your boss seems to be flexible...it’s the feeling of constant judgement for leaving early or on time. No one understands the after hours that are put in behind the scenes. It seems like it is inevitable that the kiddos get sick the days of big meetings and presentations. The stress of wanting to stay home and cuddle the kids while not disappointing your job or reflecting poorly on your performance. It always seems like a lose lose situation which is so sad.” Companies can also utilize technology such as video-conferencing tools and virtual meetings to support employees who work from home.
We Want Structural Support
This includes an onsite daycare, babysitting services such as back-up care by Bright Horizons, babysitting services with companies such as care.com, financial planners, counseling services, laundry services, housecleaning, grocery delivery, wellness providers, personal assistants and more at a negotiated corporate rate. These services will go a long way in making the lives of working mothers easier and provide a system where employees are dedicated to their work, their company and their families in a way that makes them feel whole, happy and productive.
We Want Paid Leave
While I am grateful to work for a company that offered me 16-week of paid parental leave, I cannot help but notice that my fellow mamas got zero or sub-par paid leave. Paid leave is available only to 17% of U.S workers through their employer, according to the U.S Department of Labor. And while unpaid leave is available to many, families of low socioeconomic status simply cannot afford it. The aftermath of this lack of universal paid parental leave is that most women return to work less that two weeks after giving birth, a complete shame in a developed nation. A universal paid six-months parental leave will be a good place to start, and we can start now as employers, policy makers and good citizens of this country with a joint interest to provide care for women who spend months in pregnancy and battle postpartum depression or other medical issue afterwards.
We Want Equal Pay For Women & Mothers Especially
The gender pay gap also widens when women have children and actually increases for men when they start a family, even in the same jobs according to a recent study. This mommy tax is tied to a 4% decrease in earnings per child and “daddy bonus” is a whopping 6% increase. This motherhood penalty continues to worsen in low-income and single women households. More and more ambitious women are dropping out of the workforce due to the demands of motherhood and the lack of support and appreciation for working women in the workplace.
We Want Better Treatment
I had to sneak this one in there for all moms. I recently had the experience of going through TSA security at the airport and I immediately opted out of the scanners because I am 5-months pregnant and I have been traveling a lot, I needed to make sure I wasn’t exposed to radiations and various metal detection system. I was told by security agents that this would take 20-30 minutes to find a woman to pat me down. I was appalled. I was traveling on business and simply could not afford to spend 30minutes waiting and another 10-15 minutes being patted down. I immediately latched out and requested for a supervisor. The reality is that, if this was a male issue, there would be a priority service in place by now to make sure they can get to their multi-million dollar meeting in seconds. I told the supervisor that I wasn’t going to spend another minute waiting and will be attended to immediately, and magically a female attendant was assigned to pat me down. There are so many other ways women are being mistreated unfairly that needs to stop.
We Want Co-Workers, Friends and Families To Support
I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria where my parents had 10 children. My mother had tons of support from friends and families including neighbors who supervised kids, fed and bathed them with zero expectations. And my parents always returned the favors, On any given day, we had 3-5 children at our home finishing up homework, playing outside or even simply watching the latest cartoons. It was a childhood memory that has stuck with me, and till this day, I have those friends who love me and I love in return like family. Mothers today experience loneliness, and I know so many of us will refuse to admit it because we want to appear normal and having it together. We need everyone to step up including grandparents, parents, friends, neighbors and more.
We Want Work-Life Integration Solutions Powered By Technology and Humans
If I see one more app that tells me when my toothbrush needs to be replaced, I will absolutely flip. We need real working solutions that simplifies the lives of working mothers. We’ve discussed tons of pain points today from affordable childcare, flexible work arrangement, paid parental leave, outsourcing, numerous structural supports needed that I challenge the next generations of tech entrepreneurs - men and women to tackle. While I am grateful for women such as Amy Nelson of The Riveter Co, Sarah Robinson of The Wonder, Hayley of Ellie App, Karen Cahn of iFundWomen, Lauren Brody of The Fifth Trimester and so many others who continue to place the needs of working mothers first, I can’t help but wonder if we could be doing more.
We Want A Solid Mental Health Support System
Women struggle with a lot after having children. From postpartum depression, to caring for a special needs child, taking care of an ailing parent, returning to work after minimal time with baby, recovering from childbirth, commuting to work and more. According to @marileemarilee who said “Thank You! Getting teary eyes on my commute to work. I’m doing my best in a new city and new job, trying to figure out my daughter’s childcare. Even with supportive partner and in-laws, it’s hard. And I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough.” The mental load for this mama is overwhelming, and we need to support her through paid or subsidized counseling, therapy and community like Mother Honestly Collective where women feel supported and unafraid to share their experiences.
Supporting and fighting for better work-life integration solutions is great strategy for business and for the economy. Today’s corporate climate is changing and the strategic advantages the support for working mothers bring to the workplace are no longer up for debate. If your organization just started initiatives such as paid parental leave, flexible work, childcare assistance, and more, ask management to invest in learning to accelerate what’s getting started. If your company has made commitments to a workplace that works for working mothers but the culture doesn’t match the policy, ask management to walk their talk. If your spouse isn’t doing enough at home, ask for help today not tomorrow.
Happy Mother’s Day today, tomorrow and forever.
Blessing Adesiyan is the Founder & CEO of Mother Honestly, a platform and complete ecosystem for the modern woman who seeks solutions in motherhood. Through online content, an award-winning podcast , community and conference, MH offers a 360-degree view of motherhood, career, business and life. Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and join our Facebook Group to share your thoughts on modern motherhood and contribute to conversations we spark to propel women forward at home and at work.