Zulily’s 2023 State of Motherhood Report: The Changing Definition of Mom and Which Mom Ranks the Most Important
There are 85 million moms in the U.S. under the pressure every day managing the invisible load – the behind-the-scenes work that goes into being a mom. Their to-do lists are endless, they’re stretching budgets amidst record-high inflation, and they’re navigating increases in societal pressures. So how are hard-working moms really doing?
Online retailer Zulily asked 1,200 parents to share their thoughts about parenting and what it means to mother in the post-pandemic world, and the results are published in Zulily’s new State of Motherhood Report, just in time for Mother’s Day. We found how modern times have changed the definition of mom, how moms really feel about pressure of motherhood and why we should celebrate all the different types of moms and mom-like figures this Mother’s Day and every day.
The State of Motherhood 2023
In this report:
- The Pressure is (Still) on Moms
- It Takes a Village: Mom, Redefined
- Who Is The Most Important Mom of all the Moms?
- The New Modern Family
- Moms and Dads are Saving More, Spending Less
- Single Moms are Pinched More Than Ever
- Mom Guilt Continues, But Dads Feel It Too
- What Quality Time with Your Kids Means for Different Moms
- Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Any Type of Mom
The Pressure is (Still) on Moms
Inflationary, financial, societal, cultural, and more—these factors put a lot of pressure on moms. These pressures were exacerbated by the pandemic, when moms wore many hats and juggled new responsibilities, from taking on the bulk of childcare and household chores to managing household finances and scheduling children’s activities.
Though, 84% of moms believe the stereotype of the perfect mom is an outdated standard, yet 9 of 10 still feel pressure to be perfect.
Fortunately, as responsibilities and pressures on moms expanded over the last couple of years, the report found that concept of motherhood has shifted.
It Takes a Village
It’s no surprise that the share of multi-generational households has grown steadily in the U.S. since the 1970s. While the pressure on moms remains unchanged, the composition of family households and the concept of a mother has changed.
“Mom” Moves from Noun to Verb: From “Mother” to “Mothering”
One-third of U.S. adults in multigenerational households say help with caregiving is a major reason for their living arrangement. This likely comes as no surprise given the number of hats moms wear on any given day: mother, teacher, doctor, chef, coach, decorator, artist, technician, and breadwinner. And that’s just to name a few.
With more extended family engaged in childrearing, and with fathers more active than ever in child raising, the “mom” mantle is now given to as anyone who cares for the children in their lives – the role is not restricted to giving birth. Mother has transitioned from a noun (a person) to a verb (an act), specifically describing the act of mothering.
In fact, regardless of how one identifies within their relational life – heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, married, single, etc. – only 40% of parents define a mother as a woman who has given birth to a child. Perhaps this is due to the growing number of children under 18 with an LGBTQ parent – between 2 million and 3.7 million to be exact.
The act of mothering is now also shared by dads, too. There are an estimated 2.1 million stay-at-home dads, an increase of 8% since 1989. Eighty-six percent of dads agree that a “motherer” is a person who has a substantial role in bringing up a child with care and affection.
How Moms and Dads View their Jobs as “Moms”
For women, whether single or in a relationship, their primary three hats they wear as a mom are all about nurturing:
For dads, the self-defined primary hats worn as a “mom” are a little different:
Dads Still Play the Role of Tech Support
The need for a more utilitarian technician became critical during the pandemic. With work, school, extra-curriculars, and more shifting to unconventional arrangements (at-home, hybrid, and every mode in between), screen time was essential.
Now, settled into a new norm, dads continue to play the role of “technician” in their family, ranking it within their top 5 hats worn, in comparison to moms, where technician ranks last.
With each hat comes different pressures and the need to rely on others to support the many and varied aspects of mothering.
So, Who’s the Most Important Mom of them All?
Zulily’s State of Motherhood survey explored the different types of moms wearing the mom mantle to see who ranks the highest in sharing the responsibilities of caregiving and attention to raising children (and likely who the main mom is to celebrate on Mother’s Day). The results show that female familial bonds are especially important when it comes to child caregiving.
As most important mom, single moms ranked:
#1: Their mom
#2: Their grandma
#3: Their sister and/or best friend
As most important mom, moms in relationships ranked:
#1: Their mom
#2: Their wife (if in a same sex relationship)
#3: Their sister
#4: Their grandma
#5: Their husband (if in a heterosexual relationship)
As most important mom, dads in relationships ranked:
#1: Their wife (if in a heterosexual relationship)
#2: Their mom
#3: Their sister
#4: Their grandma
#5: Their husband (if in a same sex relationship)
The New Modern Family
Moms are at the heart of modernization of what makes a family. Household caring, for example, has increased multi-generationally since the 1970s, with median household income declining for the first time since 2011, and record-high inflation in 2022.
Traditional family make up has also changed. According to Pew Research Center, fewer than half of kids in the U.S. live in a “traditional” family, which is defined as living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.
Today, of the 63.2 million households with children under 18:
- 62% have two married parents
- 15% have two parents who are re-married
- 7% have cohabiting parents
- 26% are single parent households
More Moms are Bringing Home the Bacon
Historically, men have been the household breadwinner. But as the evolution of the mother has shifted, so has the responsibility of holding the purse strings. Whether single or in a relationship, women are the leading drivers of middle-class income. They account for 91% of the total income gain for their families. However, pay is not equitable. In 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned, which means there are now more financial pressures than ever for middle class moms.
Seventy-eight percent of single moms are the primary breadwinner for their family. They receive financial support from others, including:
- Ex-husband/wife (9%)
- Unmarried partner (8%)
- Parents (6%)
The New Family CEO
Who earns the primary household income versus who manages the budget varies:
- 80% of single moms are responsible for their household budget.
- 37% of dads attribute moms as responsible for managing the household budget, even though 87% of dads say they are the primary earners
- 69% of dads report making 75-100% of purchasing decisions in a year
- 75% of moms in a relationship believe moms are responsible for managing the household budget
- 20% of moms in a relationship claim to make 100% of all purchasing decisions in a year
Moms and Dads are Saving More, Spending Less (or Spending More Carefully)
With inflation at 6.4%, our survey found that maximizing budgets and finding savings is critical to family caretaking.
- 49% of dads and 48% of moms in a relationship have decreased discretionary spend by 25%, compared to single moms (38%).
- 13% of dads have decreased discretionary spend by 75%, which is 8% more compared to moms in a relationship decreasing 75% of discretionary spend by 5%.
This could be because dads’ concerns for inflation and saving for the future are two of the top financial pressures. But regardless of marital status or role, parents face continued financial pressures on all sides, making saving even more crucial.
Single Parenthood and Today’s Family
The number of single parent households has been increasing for the past several decades. In the U.S. today, nearly 24 million children live in a single parent household. Within that, most children – 15 million – live in mother-only households.
While all parents face economic and time pressures, single mothers are uniquely challenged. They are the sole breadwinners. They wear every hat. They cannot “divide and conquer” as easily as parents who are together.
Single Moms Feel the Budget Pinch More than Ever
Single moms are hit hardest when it comes to financial pressures. In 2020, the median household income for single moms was $51,168. That’s well below the median for married couples ($106,921).
With ongoing inflation, 37% of single moms have reduced their discretionary spend by more than 50% and worry about common financial stressors, including:
- Paying bills (39%)
- Inflation and rising costs of goods and services (27%)
- Saving for the future (19%)
- Balancing necessities with discretionary spending (9%)
- Job security (5%)
Mom Guilt Continues, But Dads Feel It Too
Despite incredible loads on moms’ shoulders, mom guilt is as commonplace as ever, and likely an increasing trend among dads as they wear the mom mantle more.
Mom guilt may be defined in different ways, but 40% agree that mom guilt is most closely defined as “trying to get everything right.” All parents surveyed also define “mom guilt” as constantly worrying about making a mistake; interestingly, 26% of dads define mom guilt as “unrealistic ideal of a perfect mom.”
Trying to do everything on a to-do list plagues all those who wear the mom mantle, with all parents ranking it as the top pressure.
The State of Quality Time with Your Kids
A declining middle class now only represents 50% of households as compared to 61% in 1971 – down 11%. With more than 23.5 million working moms in the U.S., contributions to household budgets to caretake for their family is always at tension with time demands, evidenced by 79% of moms who frequently wish they had more time to spend with family.
Those who play the mother role know that time is life’s most precious commodity. How much time parents spend with their child/ren a day while awake varied across 1,200 parents:
- 30% spend more than 7 hours
- 32% spend 5-6 hours
- 24% spend 3-4 hours
- 14% spend 1-2 hours
The increase in stay-at-home dads and dual income, co-parenting and the attitudinal trend among gender roles and parenting is showing up in the evolution of the mom mantle and in awake time spent with their child/ren.
- 35% of dads spend 5-6 awake hours with their child/ren.
- Despite shared childrearing resources, 48% of single moms report spending 7 or more hours a day during kids’ awake time.
The awake time spent with children also correlates to how it makes those who wear the mom mantle feel.
- 88% percent of parents feel good about spending at least 3 awake hours per day with their children.
- 60% of parents feel good about spending more than 5 hours per day.
This demonstrates that intentional time is nurturing for their kids as much as it is about feeling good.
How Different Parents Defines Quality Time
Intentional quality time (spending meaningful time together) is key and can looks different for everyone:
- At mealtime
- When sharing in new adventures and experiences together
- When taking an interest and being involved in extracurriculars
- When creating cozy places at home to cuddle and nest
- When bringing together friends and family to be involved and close
- When finding ways to explore the creative side together
What ranked as the highest as ways to spending quality time with family?
- #1 across all parents surveyed: The ritual of the family table and spending quality time during daily meals. This ranked the highest across all surveyed, including moms in a relationship and LGBTQ parents.
- For single moms: sharing a new adventure ranked #1, whereas the ritual of the family table ranked last.
- For dads, taking an interest and being involved in their kids’ extracurriculars was the top way to spend quality time, which is why “coach” ranked in dads’ top 3 hats.
The State of Motherhood in 2023
CELEBRATING EVERY TYPE OF MOTHER FIGURE
We believe Mother’s Day deserves a broader definition as the role of mothering has evolved. To ensure ALL moms and motherly figures are celebrated this year, we launched our For All Moms Gifting Advisor – a first-of-its-kind text service designed to help shoppers find the perfect gift for all those who mom.
Zulily’s For All Moms Gifting Advisor was launched in partnership with celebrity actress and mom Busy Philipps, who’s a co-parent to her two children. Together, we recognize that there are many types of ‘moms’ who care for us all and deserve to be celebrated – on Mother’s Day and every day.