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Motherhood in 2023: Child care remains looming challenge across America

Biden Child Care
Posted at 10:06 AM, May 11, 2023

The height of the pandemic is three years removed, so one might not remember how abrupt and disruptive it was for all of us, and how it’s still that way for many moms.

Jill Koziol is the CEO of Motherly, a mom-focused platform that every year receives thousands of responses to its State of Motherhood survey. This year, in our wider return to normal, the survey shows what looks to be lasting changes.

“The data shows that household and family responsibilities are falling more on mothers now than they did during the height of the pandemic,” Koziol said.

It’s worth noting that many trends are positive. Last year, two in five moms reported getting a maximum of five hours of sleep per night. This year, barely a quarter say that. Last year, 33% of moms said they had more than an hour to themselves each day. This year, it was 39%. In the workplace, more than half of moms said their employers provide adequate support for breastfeeding or pumping, an increase of 8% from a year ago.

But child care remains a major source of struggle, one that often falls directly on moms.

“This structural challenge that's really holding women back and mothers back in the workforce is affordable child care,” Koziol said.

This year saw a 9% increase in mothers who said the cost of child care is simply too high. Nearly 30% said their most frequent relationship tension is balancing parenting responsibilities.

Those numbers dictate these: the number of moms identifying as stay-at-home parents rose from 15% last year to 24% this year.

“For many of them, it was, ‘I’m burning it at both ends. COVID left me exhausted. I don’t feel that I’m showing up best in my job and at home. And I had to make a choice,’” Koziol said.

There’s a question on the survey that perhaps showcases the state of motherhood in 2023. It asks moms how they describe their mentality around combining a career and motherhood. Last year, 36% felt empowered or optimistic and 57% were frustrated or burned out. This year, the dynamic has shifted: 43% of moms feel one way, 43% feel the other. From year to year, it’s progress. Taken on its own, it shows the burden and hurdles persisting through the pandemic and is impossible to forget.

“In a moment of crisis, we went back to the way we were raised, which was, you know, not quite as equal. And then, unfortunately, once you get into that rhythm, it is hard to get out of it. It is very hard to shift the dynamics back,” Koziol said.