The Mommy Effect Study: Did You Underestimate Working Motherhood?

mommy effect studyHave you seen the recent Wall Street Journal article called “Working Women Often Underestimate Motherhood Costs”? It reports on a recent study, “The Mommy Effect,” which found that many women have unrealistic views of what it’s like to be a working mom. The researchers say that women underestimate the time, money, and effort it will require — from childcare costs to the pressure to breastfeed — and are too optimistic about how their careers will fare. (Not surprisingly, this often leads to them leaving the workforce.) Let’s discuss it today: Did The Mommy Effect study resonate with you? Do you think you had unrealistic views of what it would be like to be a working mother? On the flip side, do you feel like you were too pessimistic about being a working mom before you became one? 

Psst: you may want to check out some of our previous discussions on career changes after baby and work-life balance advice to your pre-mom self.

Here are a couple of key passages from the article so that we can discuss (note that the WSJ is subscription-only), or you can take a look at the full study:

  • “When asked in a U.S. government survey, 60% of women with bachelor’s degrees and children under the age of 6 agreed with the statement that ‘being a parent is harder than I thought it would be.’ Fewer than 40% of men with college degrees and children under age 6 agreed.”
  • “Since around 1990, they found about 2% of 18-year-old women who participate in a University of Michigan survey of young Americans’ attitudes and values said they expect to be stay-at-home mothers at the age of 30. Yet 15% to 18% of American women become homemakers by age 30, suggesting that many expected to combine work and motherhood and then reversed course.”

You’ll find plenty of mansplaining in the comments on the article (but, yes, #notallmen), as well as attacks on millennials and “the feminist agenda,” but some moms have written comments about things like questioning the effort you’re putting into your job when you’ve already been mommytracked, and wondering why many companies are still so inflexible with employees’ schedules. What are your thoughts?

Do you agree with the findings of The Mommy Effect study? What surprised you most about the physical, emotional, financial, or other costs of being a working mom? Do you agree or disagree with the statement from the survey that “being a parent is harder than I thought it would be”? Since having kids, have you made career adjustments that you didn’t expect (either by choice or not)? What advice would you give your pre-mom self about these issues? 

Stock photo: Deposit Photos / yacobchuk1

Further Reading:

Working moms discuss the recent study, "The Mommy Effect" study, which found that young women are shocked by the effect motherhood has on their lives and career. The researchers say that women underestimate the time, money, and effort it will require -- from childcare costs to the pressure to breastfeed -- and are too optimistic about how their careers will fare. We asked our readers: did you have an unrealistic view of working motherhood? Did you think it was going to be easier than it is -- and what would your best advice be to yourself before you got pregnant?


  1. CPA Lady says:

    I think what I didn’t understand was how tired I would be. I thought that being tired would be over by the time my kid started sleeping through the night. I didn’t realize that parenting was having to deal with conflict and make hundreds of decisions every day– how am I going to respond to that whining tone? How did my child sleep last night and what bearing does that have on her request to go to the pool after dinner? Once we’re at the pool, can she get a popsicle? What do I do when she starts crying because another kid splashed her? Can she watch another video? What happens when she refuses to eat her dinner? And I just have one kid!!! We went to visit my sister and her two kids and that was a whole new level of conflict resolution and decision making– who pushed who? What is the appropriate response to pushing? What do I do if one kid is holding two books and the other kids are each holding one and they both want one of my kid’s books? And add on top of that the logistics of sick days, school holidays, activities, etc etc etc. I didn’t realize my mind would be so full and I would have to make so many snap decisions, and have to listen to a chorus of people on the internet and in real life give their commentary on how I’m doing. It’s freaking exhausting.

    On top of that, I didn’t realize that I would actually want to spend time with my kid on a level that is incompatible with a job with a ton of overtime. I thought everything would be “fine” and that I wouldn’t mind missing bedtime in order to work 80 hours a week…. it seems mystifying now, but made sense pre-kid.

    I never doubted myself in my decision to stay in the workforce, but I 100% have a “mommy track” job with no potential for upward mobility that I took when my kid was 1. It made my life a lot easier and more pleasant and over time I’ve come to peace with it. It was really difficult and upsetting at first, I think because I had these ideas of what my life would be like as a mom that didn’t really line up with reality.

    • ElisaR says:

      so tired.

    • As usual, your comment is so well-stated.

    • Exactly. Just mentally … tired.

    • octagon says:

      All of this.

      The only thing I would add: I didn’t anticipate how much I would resent my husband because he just doesn’t do nearly as much as I do. He tries to help balance things, and he is great when I ask him to do something, but the mental load is real, and it is freaking exhausting.

      • YES to your last paragraph. The resentment is real and I was utterly unprepared for it, even with my husband being really sweet and supportive and doing whatever I ask him to do. I’m working on forgiving him for some initial clueless on his part, speaking up when something isn’t working, and trying to drop the ball when I can, but it is hard. This is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a new mom.

      • ElisaR says:

        yeah, that resentment surprised me too.

      • All of the above from OP, and then yes to this on the resentment of husband. Mental load is part of the reason I don’t focus as well as I used to – I used to have a great ability to focus on the task at hand, and now multitasking and multithinking has meant my brain is too accustomed to too much at once.

        • So much resentment/emotional labor. Also married to a good dude, but man, sometimes even having to state exactly what you need or want is so exhausting! I realized when I say “okay I need to do XYZ before we leave” is a different statement than “I need to do X and Y before you leave, so can you do Z?”. But sometimes even doing THAT mental calculus can be so annoying. Work in progress over here. Work-wise, super lucky that I am in a job with a lot of autonomy and flexibility. Otherwise, could never make it work since we don’t have family/support system in the area. As more times goes, baby gets “older” (7.5 months right now) and we think about #2, the move closer to family (even with a potential live-in Grandma) cannot come fast enough, despite all the challenges it will bring with it.

          • yasmara says:

            So much truth to all of this about being the wife/mom vs husband/dad. And like others have said, my husband is a great guy and a great dad, but way more falls on me. 100% of the mental load of parenting/household.

    • This is so well said. The mental exhaustion is something I never, ever anticipated. Returning to work after my first was a very difficult transition for me, even though I had never entertained the idea of being a SAHM. It took a long time to work through the emotions I ended up having about being a working mom.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Similar to CPA Lady, I did not understand the amount of love I’d have for my child or how much I’d want to be with her and take care of her as much as possible.

  3. i expected basically for my life as i knew it to end, so in many ways it’s been easier. also, working in biglaw while being a mom is not easy, but it’s been easier than i expected. or else, the other options for practicing law are less attractive than i thought. the flexibility of my days and the income to pay for help have been key to making everything work. on the downside, given that i am the primary breadwinner, i expected my husband to be more of an equal partner in parenting than he has been.

    • Same. My kid is only 4 months old so things may get harder down the road, but so far, motherhood is easier than I thought it would be. I was also surprised by some of what people said in the article above. The assistant director who quit because her job was incompatible with pick ups and drop offs…really? That seems like an anomaly to me. Surely she could have hired a babysitter to do pickups and/or drop offs, or found some other way to make it work. She needs to read I Know How She Does It!

      • Anonymous says:

        Admittedly I didn’t read the article, but it could be that the AD could have made it work but just made a decision based on her desires and priorities. That sounds more like someone making a conscious decision between life- and parenting-styles than anything.

      • “My kid is only 4 months old so things may get harder down the road, but so far, motherhood is easier than I thought it would be.”

        Yes. It does get substantially harder. 4 months is such a sweet age. Hard in it’s own way, but very sweet. :)

        • Alexis says:

          It is very sweet! I expect things to get MUCH harder when I (hopefully) have a second child. But I expected to be completely exhausted with an infant and so far, thankfully, I’m not. I’m the primary breadwinner for my family right now, so I’ll continue to work regardless of how hard it is because someone has to support us and provide health insurance (my husband is self-employed). I think I’ve become more focused in my career and somewhat more ambitious now that I have a child. In a way, the anticipation of having a child was holding me back. Now it’s like, ok, I’m here, let’s make it work.

  4. ElisaR says:

    maybe it’s because of my age and the fact that ALL of my friends had kids before me – but I totally knew what I was getting into.

    I will say there is one thing that I thought I’d be able to do and I haven’t been successful: hiring a babysitter. They are in daycare all day, so that makes me more reluctant to hire somebody to watch them….. and putting my kids to bed is tough and finding someone is tough and ughhhhhh I haven’t left them with a babysitter yet and I want to. I need to.

    This article was depressing to me.

    • If your daycare allows it, hire your kids’ favorite daycare teacher! We recently started doing this and we really only miss an hour or so before bedtime, and the kids get so excited for the babysitter to come over so they can show her the house and their toys and stuff. Caveat that my kids are 2 and 4 and there is a particular daycare teacher they both adore. We’ve even left the kids with her overnight. It’s especially great because the daycare teachers are certified, know what to do in emergency situations, and know at least one of your kids’ quirks. Plus this gives you the opportunity to boost the income of your favorite teacher.

  5. My DH and I were very egalitarian before kids, and I thought that would just continue into parenthood because we both believed in it. I far underestimated how much WORK it would be to keep it relatively equal. Everything in our society is set up to force the mother to be the primary parent, and we have to actively push back.

    A small example – we each do our own laundry and take care of our clothes. With kids, we were pretty good at splitting the laundry basket duties, but the closet maintenance is no joke. I am the one who gets texts from relatives on “what size shoe will Kiddo be in the fall?” and I’m the one who gets the call from daycare that they need a new spare outfit. They hand ME the note that it’ll be Backwards Jeans day on Tuesday and kiddo needs to wear red on Thursday. It’s small each time, but the mental energy involved in tracking sizes and supply and seasons gets overwhelming.

    A big example – for sick days, he gets a LOT more praise for leaving to take care of a sick kid, but he can only do it occasionally. If kiddo is home sick for a week, DH gets kudos for being home for one day, but will get lots of grumbling if he stays home a second day about “can’t your wife stay home this time??” I on the other hand am sort of expected to have to take sick days, and I still get the grumbling about being out so often. So if Kiddo is home for a week, I’ll likely end up taking more of the days off than he does, esp if we aren’t thoughtful about splitting it up.

    • Yes to all of this. Sigh. Earlier this week I almost texted my husband, “Thanks for helping out this morning” because that day I needed him to do more of the morning summer camp routine for our son. (I pack his lunch, makes sure he brushes his teeth, etc.) I stopped myself because saying “helped” just felt wrong, like he isn’t *the other parent*. But yes, it was nice that he gave me a hand when I was running late (of course I had to tell him what to do specifically). Or is this overanalyzing??

      • Anonymous says:

        Gently, I think you’re overthinking the “help” thing. I think of it as helping the team or the family more than me specifically. We do a lot of thanks for __________ making dinner/cleaning/kiddo’s bath etc. It is nice to feel appreciated by your partner. And it sets a good example for kids. It also helps us recognize all that our partners do.

    • KateMiddletown says:

      Yes, this, 100%. My husband has a much more generous leave policy than I do and way more vacation/sick time (quasi-govt job) and yet I am the default school’s out parent.

      Admittedly, when our daughter was a baby I wanted to be the one home with her when she was sick, especially when nursing. For the day before the first day of school I WANT to be the one to help her with her backpack, make sure she has the right outfit, etc. I enjoy doing mom stuff (okay about 80% of it) and I just have to live with the fact that moms and dads are not completely interchangeable.

      • Kat in VA says:

        I have this same issue. My last job was hourly, not salary. My husband is salaried and they are far more forgiving of him leaving early/coming in late (he’s a government contractor, I’m an EA).

        School always called ME if a child was sick or someone needed picking up for whatever reason, despite his number being the default “first” number on the forms. He also has a shorter commute than I do, but they would invariably hit me up first.

        I don’t imagine anything will change with my next job, even though he’s listed first on the forms. Adding to the problem, when he’s on government property, oftentimes he can’t bring his cell phone with him. Mine is muted during the day because, duh, I’m at work. Nurses can get spectacularly nasty if they can’t get one of us on the first try, even though I’ve explained we’re both working and the situation.

        My workaround is having them call my son’s best friend, who is 21 and lives with us. Due to his job situation, he’s normally home during the day and can pick one of the girls up, but even then there was quite a lot of pushback because his last name is different than ours. *sigh*

  6. ElisaR says:

    also. i started reading the comments which are awful. i should know better.

    • Lana Del Raygun says:

      “the bottom half of the internet” except way more than half :(

      • KateMiddletown says:

        Yeah, I don’t know who the audience is for this kind of article. Is it working moms who already know they’re treading water, or is it everyone else to make working moms look like sad sacks?

  7. Anonymous says:

    I was probably too optimistic about the compatibility of my job with having a baby/toddler, but we’ve made it work. We are lucky that we like our childcare situation and can throw money at some issues that come up. Work related travel and networking have been hard, and at some point I think I will pay the price for cutting back on this stuff, but I also was surprised by how much I prefer hanging out with my kid on the evenings and weekends to doing work related stuff!

    The part about pressure to nurse/pump really resonated – the NBER paper goes into a bit more detail than the WSJ article. While I was merely over-optimistic abotu some aspects of working parenthood, I was completely blindsided by the toll of nursing. Not just the excruciating pain at the beginning, or the realization that I couldn’t really get away from the kid for more than three hours. I didn’t expect how much I would hate pumping at work and how much it would lower my job satisfaction at the time. Not everyone’s experience, but I just found it depressing to be topless and hooked up to a pump 1.5 hours a day and I was frustrated I couldn’t get any work done while pumping since I actually love my job and felt like I wasn’t fully there even though I wanted to be all in at work. I quit (pumping, not my job) at 8 months and I think baby 2 is going on forumla as soon as I go back to work, if not earlier. I really liked this article.

    • ElisaR says:

      congrats on making it 8 months!

      for my 2nd son I made it pumping 1 day at work. Then I decided to give him formula and then just b*feed morning and night until 6 months. That worked quite nicely.

      Pumping is for the birds.

      • AwayEmily says:

        Yeah pumping is BS. Honestly I kind of think nursing is a scam too (and I say this having nursed/pumped with my first for a year and going on five months with my second). Whenever potential parents ask me “what can I do early on to make sure there’s an equal division of labor between parents” I tell them “put the baby on formula immediately.”

        Obviously I did not take my own advice — I love the actual act of nursing enough that I tolerate many of the crap parts that come along with it — but god, it really does exacerbate inequalities.

        • Anonymous says:

          My husband has been doing 90% of the household chores since our daughter was born for this reason. He realizes that even if he cooks dinner, does the dishes and walks the dog, he’s still not spending anywhere near as much time as I do nursing. I’m actually not looking forward to weaning, because then I’ll have to do more chores! ha.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Due to a variety of circumstances, DH was left to get both kids ready and dropped off this morning, which also included packing 6-year old’s lunch and making his own lunch. He was so grumpy and irritable and I ended up taking an Uber rather than having DH drop me off because he was so overwhelmed.

    Part of me felt like should walk on eggshells because he was already so overwhelmed. But I realized that this is me. Every day. Our oldest is 13-years old and THIS is your first real morning? Welcome to my life. No wonder I’m so freaking tired!

    I pointed out to him that THIS is my day. Every day. THIS is what my life is ALWAYS like. I hope that it made a small impression on him. I hope he has a glimpse of how much harder it is to get three humans out of the house, on time, fed, with future feedings prepared and packed. It doesn’t sound like much on paper but it’s seriously exhausting. I know my male boss with the SAH wife and one older child certainly doesn’t get it.

    My kids are older! They are largely self sufficient! And yet the logistics of just getting out of the house are mind boggling. Don’t even get me started on the rest of the day. Or dinner time. Or when someone is sick.

    • Pigpen's Mama says:

      I’ve just got the one, and she’s littler, but SO MUCH THIS. My husband is really good with her, IF I deal with all the logistics, like bags and meal prep and pushing them out the door on time. And if he has to do it, OMG, the complaining and the whining and such. I usually just tune it out now, but I’m also thinking I may just snap soon!

      • My husband is kind of like this (like, he’s really good if everything is ready to go, but he doesn’t complain or whine if it’s not, he just doesn’t always remember anything). And I have to remind myself that he doesn’t do it every day so he doesn’t know that DS1 doesn’t get a snack and DS2 does get a snack and DD *needs* to have a water bottle and library day is on Monday etc. He’s really really great at the things that he does (like cook dinner every night), but he doesn’t pay attention to everything that I’m doing, so when he has to do it he needs step-by-step instructions. Whereas I know exactly what he’s doing, even if I rarely do it.

  9. Everlong says:

    Being a parent is easier than I expected. I expected to give up everything I liked and enjoyed, everything that made me me. Instead, I found out that having kids really has added to my life. I don’t just love them, I like them more than I could have imagined. I was comfortable with self-sacrifice and figured I would never have alone time again, so the fact that my days still have structure and that I make time for my interests is awesome and amazing to me. It is a lot harder than I expected to leave them for anything other than work. I do, but it is rare.

    It only works because my husband is a more than equal partner. He almost definitely does more of the grudge work than I do – namely, the food prep. It also only works because I work. We would not have enough household income otherwise to do the things I am so thankful for that make a difference – grocery delivery, monthly housecleaning, and frequent coffee runs.

    I really hated nursing and pumping. My 2nd was formula fed from the beginning and that helped tremendously.

    • Alexis says:

      Yes to all of this (except I don’t find pumping to be that terrible – annoying, but not THAT bad).

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m only a few months into working parenthood, but so far it’s been easier than expected. My husband is a very equal partner. I actually don’t mind pumping at all and honestly kind of enjoy having a little break from work to read magazines or my Kindle. My job is very low stress and I work 8-4 and from home once per week, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on time with my baby. But the baby has been home with my mom so far. She’s going to have to go to daycare at the end of the summer and I’m really dreading that.

    • Daycare will add the pickup/dropoff, get baby ready stuffy to your day, but we have been really happy with daycare nearly 5 years in with three kids. The teachers love our kids and the kids love going. And daycare was what got my babies on a good schedule. I couldn’t do it on my own!

  11. KateMiddletown says:

    This makes me think of the credits during Car Talk where the head of the “Working Mother Support Group” was named Erasmus B. Dragon (say it out loud.)

  12. Pigpen's Mama says:

    Ditto to the being tired all the time – mostly from having to constantly make decisions.

    What really surprised me was how long everything takes, from getting ready, to getting out the door, to making dinner, etc. If I try to do any sort of organization/cleaning when my 3 year old is home and not glued to the TV, the mess that results is far more than any thing I got done!

    • Spirograph says:

      Same here. I always felt like I had plenty of time for everything before kids, even when I had a commute that was 3x as long as mine is currently. But now it takes me an hour to even get everyone out of the house in the morning. And dinner is an hour to cook and eat. Bedtime is an hour. Everything just takes so long with littles running around! Less free time and more to do/think about is a recipe for exhaustion.

  13. Boston Legal Eagle says:

    I didn’t read the full article because I don’t have a subscription but a couple of thoughts on the general theme: I think what I most underestimated before having kids is that my desire to keep climbing the “success” ladder would just continue after kids and that my priorities and expectations about what a truly successful life wouldn’t change. I’ve always thought of myself as better than average and really driven and Type A – now, I’m coming to accept that I might just be ok or pretty good at both working outside the home and parenting. Not the best at either, but that’s ok, because the balance is what’s really making me happier. I may not be promoted and I may also not home cook every meal and go to every soccer match, but so what? Having a spouse who feels the same way also helps a ton. I definitely think that policies could go a long way to better support parents in the workforce.

    Also, I think I underestimated how much it truly does take a village to raise a kid. We’re taught to be so individualistic and that we can do everything ourselves but it’s a lot of work! Having my parents nearby and willing and able to help out has made our lives a lot easier when it comes to sick days, weekends, vacations and I’m sure will be even more beneficial with the limited schedules of school post-daycare land. Having great daycare providers has also been a huge help.

    • I agree with this. I was super motivated throughout college and high school to succeed, succeed, keep moving, etc. Now I’ve been in essentially the same job for seven years, I have a lot of flexibility and perks, but not a ton of room for advancement unless I leave. But with a toddler and another one on the way, advancement is just not my priority right now even though I do feel guilty about letting my ambition die a bit. Family is important to me and late nights at an office are not- it helps my husband is on the same page, and we currently make enough to be comfortable.

    • Strategy Mom says:

      me too! i’ve had a really hard time letting go of that ambition and being ok with being just ok at my job when i know i used to be a rockstar at the same exact job

  14. Anonymous says:

    I think I knew everything would change but just didn’t understand how much emotional labor there would be and how little of it would be seen by my husband or other family members – the clothes and schedule and doctor’s appointments and meals and so forth.

    • Feeling (and being) unseen has been a big issue for me. Maybe I want that “gold star” too much, but it bothers me a lot.

  15. I was surprised to find out how well I would function with so much little, broken sleep. Or that that the partners I work for would not mommy-track me (I am working on some of the best deals of my career at 10 months post-partum with a shocking amount of flexibility to work from home when I need to and to disappear for a few hours for snuggles, dinner and bedtime). Or how much bone-deep satisfaction there is of sleeping baby snuggles. I know that none of this would be true or relatively easy if 1) I didn’t bring down a BigLaw salary, which allows for a lot of extra conveniences and 2) my husband didn’t stay home with my daughter. I am surprised (constantly) by how little my husband gets done at home while I work all day, but I am sympathetic to the fact that my daughter refuses to sleep for him unless napping on him and that she constantly wants to be held by him all day (even though she does not act that way with me). So division of household chores is still something I primarily do, but now that she is getting a little older and a little more independent, he is aspiring to do more housework. The emotional labor part doesn’t bother me because I am a planner and organizer by nature – keeping track of all of that stuff keeps my mind occupied so I’m not rearranging furniture, alphabetizing bookshelves, etc.

  16. This isn’t working mother specific, as much as it’s parenthood in general. But I never realized that I’d be as anxious about the state of the world as I am now that I have a young daughter.

  17. Infertility woes says:

    Husband’s sp*rm analysis was awful. Very low count, almost no movement, almost no normal morphology. So bad that the nurse asked twice if he’d missed the cup altogether.

    He’ll redo in a few weeks, but it is so hard not to be sad and scared. I’m 38 and I honestly thought i’d be the problem.

    • ElisaR says:

      i’m sorry. Hang in there. sending you love.

    • I’m so sorry! If it is any consolation, I have heard this is one of the easier issues to fix. My husband had the same result, went off a medication they thought might be causing it, and I was pregnant two months later. It was a really rough two months though- he didn’t want to talk about it, and I needed to talk about what the next steps were and lean on a support network, but I didn’t feel like I could share his medical issues with my friends or family. If you need support, keep posting! Many people on this board have been through similar issues.

      • Infertility Woes says:

        Thank you.

        Any chance that medication was an SSRI? My husband is on Prozac, and I expressed concerns about this when it was prescribed (and was pooh-pooh’ed). I’m not mad, and correlation =/= causation, but his issues are pretty much exactly what was described in a few studies.

    • yasmara says:

      @InfertilityWoes, we had both my problems (PCOS) and Husband’s problems (very very similar sperm issues – count was OK, morphology sucked, motility was random, and mortality sucked – they all died by 24 hours). We did a cycle of IVF with ICSI (where they inject a specific sperm into the egg to fertilize it) and got pregnant with twins. One twin didn’t end up developing past the embryo sac stage, so the pregnancy was deemed a singleton but that singleton is 13yo now! Our frozen embryo transfer (FET) with the last 3 embryos we had in storage is 11yo. I hope this gives you hope!

  18. Anonymous says:

    I overestimated how much it would affect my working life– my job is flexible, my boss is a mom, I have not been mommy-tracked or given less plum assignments than before. It’s fine if I go in early and leave early to make a doctor’s appointment. I underestimated the sheer monetary expense. All non-daycare expenses are not as expensive as I thought they’d be: formula, diapers, whatever, we can easily handle all those with both incomes. But we had twins, my husband and I are both only medium-well-paid government employees (HHI a little over $100K), and we. are. BROKE. entirely due to how much day care costs. I know it’s a temporary expense, and I’m still putting money in my retirement account, and I’m getting raises, and in five years we’ll probably be ahead of where we’d have been if I stayed home (and I don’t want to stay home). But the fact that it eats up all of my take-home pay after deductions for retirement/health insurance/parking AND I don’t get to see them all day is infinitely more frustrating than I thought it’d be. I’m always on edge about whether our ten-year-old cars will break or the house will need new siding.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m with you, both on overestimating how much it would interfere with work and underestimating how expensive daycare would be – and I don’t have twins. It will be worth it and in five years you’ll be so glad you stuck with it. But I get that psychologically it’s hard to leave your kids with someone else and barely break even.

  19. Emily S. says:

    I get frustrated that we can’t move from “working motherhood” to “working parenthood,” but, then I see something like this article and am reminded that it still really is a woman/mom’s problem. I said to DH that the system is broken, like, I’m expected to work from 8:30 to 5 and daycare is open from 8 to 6, and how am I supposed to get my kids there and then to work and then from work to pick up and see them at all and handle all the menial tasks of life (like grocery shopping, cleaning, doctor’s appointments, etc.) and he just shrugged. Because he helps out a lot (there it is, “helps” creeping in to my language!) but he just.doesn’t.know.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why are you handling all the daycare drop-offs and pickups and all the household stuff like grocery shopping and cleaning? It doesn’t really sound to me like he helps out much at all. I understand women often get stuck with emotional labor because men don’t “see” it, but stuff like grocery shopping is a very easy task to simply tell him he must do.

    • This. You’re both working. Split dropoff and pickup. Split errands. Don’t ask for help, give him jobs and he’ll have to do it.

      • Kat in VA says:

        I have noticed a definite change in things when I changed my language from “I need you to help me do…” to just “You need to…” It was a little scary, because I’m not accustomed to asking for someone to pull their share, even if it’s lightened my own, but once I stepped up and said “I need you to take Number One Son to the cardiologist” or “I need you to grab two gallons of milks on your way home”, the pushback and discomfort I anticipated just wasn’t…there.

        I think husbands or SOs can be oblivious to the amount of planning and anticipation that goes with running a household, whether you’re working FT or not. It’s not intentional or mean-spirited; if you’ve been the power that drives the wheels for a long time, everyone (SO and kids) becomes accustomed to things just getting done around them. Dishes get washed, laundry gets folded, pantry get restocked, dog gets to the vet for nail clippings.

        The more you require people to chip in, the more they will do so (although yeah, the kids will complain).

      • Anonymous says:

        Agreed! I just read Drop the Ball (Tiffany Dufu), and almost couldn’t relate to some parts (and felt they bordered on the victim-blaming) because I do have a partner who does an equal share of the household load, but I heard so many similar stories that I recognize some SOs simply…are oblivious. Have him read it.

  20. Childless says:

    I got married older than most of my friends, so I saw the struggles they went through. In theory, my husband I would like kids, but given our work schedules we don’t know how we can do it without being completely stressed out all the time and exhausted. We have both learned we don’t function well on little sleep, and it doesn’t help we are older. We also don’t really have the option to work part time or have one of us stay home for financial reasons, and adequate childcare would be very expensive. If we could do either of those things, I would love to have children, but since we can’t, I don’t think it would be sustainable for us. We have thought about adopting when we are yet even older if we have more time, but who knows if that will happen.

    • yasmara says:

      @Childless, I wouldn’t have kids “if you have time” someday in the future. You *make* time if you want kids. You say goodbye to hobbies for a while, cut back on after-hours work, don’t socialize very much, stop spending hours doing whatever you did before…and you raise your kids, hire help when you need it, etc.

      And if you don’t want kids, all the time in the world won’t make you want to have them. That’s totally fine!

      There’s not some magical additional time in the day for parents, we have just given up some other stuff for a while to spend time on kids.

  21. I think the hardest, most surprising part is the lack of institutional support, for lack of a better term. I always knew I wanted to work and have kids and I expected that to be hard, but it never occurred to me just how much of a problem childcare would be – how expensive, how long the waitlists, etc. I didn’t realize that all the stuff for kids that I would love to sign up to do with mine would be on Wednesdays at 10:30 AM. Or that maternity leave benefits would be so sh*tty.

    • Yes on the sh*tty mat leave! I guess I could have known theoretically, but I didn’t realize until I had to use it. I didn’t understand that FMLA is totally unpaid. I didn’t understand that the first week of STD is an unpaid “waiting period” in most plans, and doesn’t last the full 12 weeks. I didn’t understand that any time off before the baby comes takes away from your time after baby is here. I didn’t understand that my company requires you use your PTO, so you come back with zero hours accrued (while your new baby is in a daycare with a ton of snotty kids).

      You’re right, the lack of institutional support is astounding. We should be able to do better as a country for our working parents.

  22. Eleacouise says:

    I had no clue my life would change so dramatically. I had post-partum depression so bad I had to do an intensive outpatient psych program after having 2 babies in 12 months. I was non-functional. Something my law firm did not really accommodate. The upside: Mr. Wonderful had to take over all parenting. He is much more involved & has a much closer relationship with our girls because he had to step up. There’s always a silver lining.

  23. Caitlyn says:

    I think motherhood has made me a better worker. It’s really given me a focus in work that I didn’t have before, because I could just stay as long as I needed. Now, my ass is out the door at 5.

    And I have dropped the ball HARDCORE. That’s been the most pleasant surprise for this recovering perfectionist – I just turn it over to my husband (e.g. Laundry) and it gets done the way he does it and that’s that. If there’s one thing I tell my friends, it is to drop the ball unapologetically. (And formula feed.)

    • midwest attorney says:

      100% agree. the only reason i’m SOMEWHAT sane or rested, is because I am totally OK with dropping the ball (not all the time… I still have moments where I panic or am overwhelmed). thank God for grocery delivery services and the like.

      also, best advice I ever received – from a professor my third year of law school, to a pregnant me: “It will never be 50/50, just accept that.” it wasn’t said in a demeaning or trite way, just an acknowledgement of reality.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not everyone has someone around to pick up the ball if we drop it. Single moms, hello!

      And our bodies are all different. Can we please not push others into whatever nutritional choice we’ve made for our kids? My milk came in easily, my kid had a good latch, I never had to mix a da*n thing or get out of bed when he was hungry at night. Temp was always correct, babies regulate the supply–altogether it was much easier FOR ME. If formula made your life better, great, but assuming it will do the same for others just isn’t fair.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh, please. Aren’t you smug and lucky. Everyone realizes formula is a suggestion, not a command.

  24. Un-relatable says:

    Honestly the hardest thing for me has been relating to other women (who are moms). Because I still choose to prioritize my career and rely heavily on my husband, nanny, daycare, whomever we can beg / borrow / steal to help us , I’ve noticed I have a hard time relating to women in my same field who make different choices (e.g. take the mom track, go down to part time, etc.) almost feeling judged for not doing the same! And when it feels like everyone else is making the choice to change their career somewhat (if even temporarily) it can genuinely undermine my confidence in my decisions. Like, why am I the woman who hasn’t changed? Traveling weekly, working 70-80 hours, and still enjoying it? It makes me feel like I’m the “worse” mom, which of course may be true in some cases, but may not be in other cases. My parenting style is pretty hands-off in general – pick yourself up when you fall, soothe yourself back to bed, gain independence, etc., and I don’t see a lot of that either among the parents I am surrounded by (incl. my husband!), which AGAIN makes me feel something like – what’s wrong with me? Anyway, this was something I was not prepared for – feeling pretty isolated in my choices.

    • anon at 1:17 says:

      My kid is 15 now and able to look back at “when he was little”. Natural consequences have always been a big part of my parenting (as long as the consequence isn’t too severe, like a little one wandering into traffic). Spill your milk? I’ll help you out by giving you a towel to clean it up with. Do the bike trick mama said looked dangerous? You skin your knees and elbows. It doesn’t sound like this is exactly your style, but I can definitely commiserate and empathize with you on the looks from other moms who think I’m a monster for either letting my kid get hurt (again, not in any way that would put him in the hospital) and at other times for not doing something to punish my kid when I see that he is already being disciplined (taught) by the situation itself. And fantastic that you haven’t let the “work” part of you get chased away by your new responsibilities/opportunities!

      • yasmara says:

        I have older kids too and as I talk with other moms/parents of older kids it’s interesting how many of them wish they hadn’t let their careers slide for so long (especially with college tuition looming). And how many things that we used to do so differently no longer matter (or we barely remember them)!

  25. Anonymous says:

    I can’t really answer this question, because I expected my kid’s dad to be a co-parent, living with us. He split within a week, so I’ve always been a single parent working mom. That was harder than I expected. The hard parts, for me, are mental; the pressure of knowing, where ever I was, what ever I was doing, that this little person’s life depended on me was much heavier than I expected. I also put a lot of thought into decisions about him. The other really, super-hard thing is my family’s expectations of working moms. Not only do they not want to help out with the child (fair enough, my choice to have him), they make demands that make being a working mom more difficult, like insisting on family time during very busy parts of the year.

  26. I had no idea that I would be responsible for all of the thinking that goes into actually taking care of and parenting children, and that my husband would mostly just want to do the “fun” stuff with the kids but not the actual hard stuff. I was very naive. It’s exhausting feeling like you’re responsible for it all – and then to have society expect it to all fall on the mother. Someone mentioned above but school/appointments/all calls come to me, even in the instances when my husband is listed as the first point of contact. He has WAY more flexibility at his job than I do, and yet I still find myself bending my schedule and my career to fit our family’s needs. Writing this I see that we need to work on our relationship on these issues – has anyone been in a similar situation and found that something like marriage therapy helped with more equal parenting?

    • My husband started a new job literally the day our daughter was born in February. His first two weeks at the job were “paternity leave” although he sat at home on the computer the whole time getting ready for his new role. Since then he works late, plays golf on weekends for “business” and is rarely around and engaged with our daughter or me. He does things I ask him to without complaint, but a) I effing HATE that I have to ask him to “parent” and b) sometimes it takes more time for me to explain what and how something needs to get done and it’s easier just to do it myself.

      I’m looking into marriage counseling too, and would love to know other’s thoughts because parenting “with” him so far has been a huge shock and the resentment is REAL. It has been the worst 4 months of our 5-year marriage by far, while also being some of the most awesome 4 months of my life because of my little girl. Funny that way.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t listen with my first when people said time would fly, I only finally got it with my second. I only work 40 hours, make it a point to leave at exactly 4:30 for commute and leave work at work. Once Home my phone is off, and work knows this, we eat as a family and I incorporate my kids in everything, from laundry to dishes to grocery shopping. My thoughts are they are only young once and I won’t die thinking damn I missed that important meeting. I have struggled with my career and finally said to myself…what’s more important to me right now, family or work? I do have a successful career and I waited to have kids, but I’m finally okay if I don’t get that promotion, I refuse to stress myself out anymore, my house will not be spotless, laundry will always have to be done…..oh and I deleted FB, Instagram and Pinterest, lately because I found myself comparing myself to other moms.

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