Women like motherhood but feel underappreciated
By Patty Mattern, University News Service
Published on May 3, 2005
A groundbreaking national study led by University of Minnesota researcher Martha Farrell Erickson has found that mothers derive deep satisfaction from motherhood even as they worry about the impact of American culture on their children. However, many mothers also reported that they feel that society does not appreciate them.
In "The Motherhood Study--Fresh Insights on Mothers' Attitudes and Concerns," researchers surveyed more than 2,000 mothers of children under the age of 18 to ask what they think and feel about mothering. The sample was representative of the diverse population of adult mothers across the United States in terms of income, education, age, race, ethnicity, marital status, and employment.
Instead of emphasizing the stresses and strains of motherhood and divisions among mothers, the findings reveal that--regardless of background or life circumstances--mothers across the United States have a great deal in common and derive deep satisfaction from motherhood.
"Mothers reported strikingly high levels of satisfaction, both with their overall lives as mothers--with 97 percent saying they are 'very' or 'somewhat' satisfied--and with more specific aspects of their lives, including the emotional support they receive, the responsibility they have for childrearing, and the childcare arrangements they use," said Erickson, the study's principal investigator and a senior fellow with the University of Minnesota's Children, Youth, & Family Consortium.
The study was designed by a 12-member team of social science researchers convened by the Mothers' Council and Motherhood Project, based at the Institute for American Values, and was implemented in partnership with the University of Minnesota and the University of Connecticut. Staff at Connecticut's Center for Survey Research and Analysis conducted the survey.
Key findings include:
- Mothers feel passionately about their children and about mothering, which they see as unique and extraordinarily important work.
- Despite high levels of satisfaction and powerful feelings about the importance of what they do, mothers do not necessarily feel that others in society appreciate them, value them, or attend to their needs.
- While women in today's society are waiting longer to get married and increasingly raising children by themselves, the survey found that marriage is associated with a range of positive outcomes for mothers, including economic status and satisfaction with life as a mother.
- Mothers want more time to spend on personal and family relationships.
- There is a striking gap between mothers' current work status and their ideal work arrangement. More than 41 percent of those surveyed are currently employed full-time, but only 16 percent across the entire sample said they would prefer full-time work if choosing their ideal.
- Mothers seem to hold values that differ in significant ways from those of the larger culture. Ninety-five percent agreed that they wish American culture made it easier to instill positive values in children.
- When asked to name their single biggest concern for their children, mothers most often cited education or safety and security, followed by drugs and drinking.
- When asked about their single biggest concern for themselves, mothers most often named finances, healthcare, or safety.
"Although motherhood long has been the subject of academic and popular writing and discussion, the voices of mothers from different walks of life have been noticeably missing from the national conversation," Erickson said. "The Motherhood Study aimed to change that by going directly to mothers across the United States and hearing what they had to say about their attitudes, values, concerns, and needs."