“When You Factor in Family Duties, the Average Working Mom Works 98 Hours a Week
Proof positive we work way too much.”
This headline, along with the picture of a woman asleep in front of a computer, glasses askew, screamed a me from the screen. I stopped scrolling. What could these moms be doing that they were working an astounding 98 hours a week? I clicked through to the article to find out.
Posted on workingmother.com, a site I’ve always found reliable, I found more details. The article begins (verbatim):
"Working moms, and moms in general, don't get enough credit for all that they do, which is pretty much work all the time, even when they're not getting paid. For anyone out there who doesn't understand just how diligent you are, or why you always look so darn tired all the time, you'll want to show them this: new findings that sum up just how many hours you really work per week."
When I read this paragraph, everything about it rubbed me the wrong way. Are moms not getting enough credit? What kind of credit are we looking for? Everyone in my life has always acknowledged how hard it must be to juggle it all. Then the authors say “not getting paid”, a subtle reinforcement that motherhood should be viewed through the lens of a traditional job with a salary. And then to top it all off they refer to the people in your life who have no clue why you are tired. Serious? Are there people in a working mom’s life who question why you look tired all the time? SMH
The article goes on:
"Welch's recently commissioned a study of 2,000 American mothers with children ages 5 to 12. It aimed to discover the useful tools, resources and techniques moms use to keep their lives and their family's lives afloat. Their most astounding finding: the average working mom clocks in a 98-hour work week, with her day typically starting at 6:23 a.m. She doesn't end up finishing her work or family duties until 8:31 p.m., meaning she works 14 hours per day."
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are over 35 million working moms and for this study they interviewed 2,000. As someone who works with data all week long, this is a red flag as this is a tiny sample representing a massive population.
Next, they state these moms have children ranging from ages 5 to 12, which was odd to me because these kids become more independent, taking some of the strain off moms. The study ignores the 0-5 age range, which I believe are the most physically demanding years of motherhood. When my kids were newborns/toddlers I felt like I was literally “working” around the clock with late night feedings, interrupted sleep and constantly running after them. Excluding moms of young kids from this study seems like a gross oversight, but I digress.
Let’s get to the meat of the study where they reveal the participants on average “work” 14-hour days (14 * 7 days = 98-hour work week). As I read those numbers, they seem unrealistic, but here’s the irony: my weekdays look a lot like this too. I get up at 5 and many days don’t stop until 8-ish. Within those hours I work a corporate job and do “mom-related” work. But I also exercise, get ready, commute to work, run errands, eat meals and find time to scroll through social media. Is it fair to count all those things as work? Is it fair to count your weekend as a “work day” just because you are a mom?
This article is extreme to grab people’s attention (and it worked). It reinforces a mom’s most vulnerable feelings; being underappreciated and exhausted, while feeding the mom stereotype of a self-less, overworked martyr. What is the point of this article? Now moms will wake up and expect the next 14 hours to feel like work. Is that helpful? Classifying every part of your life as “work” sets a negative tone and will impact your mindset, mood and health. Besides, did you have a child because you wanted more work to do? No, you had a child for the love and joy they would bring to your life, not for the items they would add to your to-do list.
We need to change the conversation for working moms because articles like this are not helpful. Instead of focusing on feeling underappreciated, we need cherish the connection we have with our kids. Instead of thinking of motherhood as an unpaid career, we need to see it as an internship rich with life-changing experiences. And instead of feeling alone and misunderstood, we need to tap into the wisdom of the millions of working moms who are living this every day.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.