For Many Working Moms, the Struggle is Real

Amy McDonnell

Janet Jackson is one of the latest high-profile women to be heading toward a very important job. A job she’s deemed it necessary to cancel her tour for, in fact: motherhood.

Though at first blush, Mother’s Day brings to mind gestures and rituals like heartfelt cards, phone calls, hand-crafted gifts and brunch out on the town as we reminisce and celebrate motherhood and the women who have made a difference in our lives — what Mother’s Day doesn’t as often address is the struggle many working mothers (and fathers, for that matter) face today.

Paying a Bigger Price

CareerBuilder’s annual Mother’s Day survey reveals that at least 2 in 5 working moms and dads are the sole breadwinners for their households; yet working dads are almost three times as likely to earn $50,000 or more and three times as likely to earn six figures.

Although they face equal pressure to take care of their families, working moms who are the sole financial providers are still significantly lagging behind working dads in terms of salary.

To break it down:

Earn less than $50,000 annually

  • Working moms who are sole financial providers: 69 percent
  • Working dads who are sole financial providers: 40 percent

Earn $50,000 or more annually

  • Working moms who are sole financial providers: 20 percent
  • Working dads who are sole financial providers: 58 percent


More Quality Time — But Is It Enough?

Where working moms seem to be outperforming working dads is in the amount of quality time at home – but would most working moms say it’s enough? During the typical workweek, more than half of working moms (58 percent) spend four or more hours with their children every day, compared to 41 percent of working dads. Only 4 percent of working moms say they spend an hour or less with their children each day, compared to 10 percent of working dads.

It’s not necessarily a ton of time, and working dads are faring even worse when it comes to quality time with their children.

As working parents, we of course strive to make the most of the more limited time we have with our kids. Yet, both working moms and dad continue to struggle with juggling personal and professional commitments: Twenty-three percent of working moms and 26 percent of working dads said they have missed three or more significant events in their children’s lives in the last year.

Can You Have it All?

Some women who say they can “have it all” without sacrificing some quality of work or home life are probably not being completely honest with themselves. Most working moms (82 percent) feel they can have it all, but one wonders what “having it all” really means when only half (50 percent) said they are equally successful in their jobs and as parents.

Many parents feel they’re better at one than the other:

  • More than one-third of working moms (36 percent) report they’re more successful as a parent, compared to 33 percent of working dads.
  • A relatively equal number of working moms and dads say they are more successful in their jobs than as parents – 15 percent compared to 14 percent of working moms.


Still, the juggle seems worth it to many parents. Two in 5 working parents (40 percent) say they would be unlikely to leave their job if their spouse or significant other made enough money for their family to live comfortably (47 percent of working dads vs. 35 percent of working moms).

On top of that, 60 percent of working parents said they would not be willing to take a decrease in pay to spend more time with their kids (66 percent of working dads vs. 55 percent of working moms), even though nearly one-third of working parents (31 percent) said their child has asked them to work less.

But is that by Choice – or Necessity?


Said Rosemary Haefner, CHRO of CareerBuilder — and a working mom:

Working parents not only have performance reviews at the office, but also experience them on a daily basis at home. The pressure to succeed in both arenas can be tough, especially if you’re not earning enough money to take care of financial demands at home. More working moms today feel that they are able to balance the needs of their professional and personal worlds, but household income still remains a major concern.

There’s been a lot of discussion around the idea that parents who leave the workforce to raise their children – even temporarily – may lose valuable skills and networking contacts, leaving them ill-equipped if and when they’re ready to jump back into it. However, parents new to the workforce or looking to jump back in may find raising children has actually equipped them with a marketable set of skills. Sixty-eight percent of employers believe being a parent can qualify as relevant experience in the corporate world.

The experience parents gain that employers find most valuable are:

  • Patience – 68 percent
  • Ability to multi-task – 61 percent
  • Time management – 57 percent
  • Conflict management – 51 percent
  • Problem-solving – 50 percent
  • Empathy – 43 percent
  • Mentoring – 42 percent
  • Negotiation – 36 percent
  • Budgeting and managing finances – 36 percent
  • Project management – 25 percent


This raises some questions: Are parents looking to get back into the workplace underestimating their skill set? Will presenting their real-life experience in a new way make potential employers look at them in a new light? And as an employer (and/or a working parent), which of these qualifications would you find most valuable? Tweet us @CBforEmployers and tell us what you think.

The Parenthood Principle

While someone like Janet Jackson may be more carefree when it comes to the financial decisions around working and raising a child, even she isn’t immune to the push and pull of career vs. family that many working mothers face. The struggles and sacrifices of both mothers and fathers as they navigate the complex issues around work are ubiquitous. The guilt parents in the workplace grapple with can be never-ending, but working moms should take heart: A Harvard Business School study shows working moms may raise more successful daughters and empathetic sons.

And that’s something to celebrate.


The survey included more than 2,000 employers and 1,002 working parents with children 18 years old and younger who are living at home with them. See the full results here.


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