June 4, 2005
America's Mothers Doing?
In my four
decades as a journalist I've written hundreds of stories about America's
families but have never written about what America's mothers feel about
their job as mom and how it could be made happier or more productive.
Such questions had never been asked of mothers directly
until "The Motherhood Study"
did so, filling that intellectual void beautifully.
Commissioned by the Mothers' Council which is sponsored
by the Institute for American
Values ([email protected])
and the Universities of Minnesota and Connecticut, the study was written by
Martha Farrell Erickson and Enola G. Aird. It asked 2,000 mothers of
children under 18 some basic questions:
"Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your life as a
mother?" A surprisingly high 97 percent are satisfied, with 81 percent
saying they are "very satisfied."
Similarly, 84 percent rate their "overall sense of
well-being" as Excellent or Good. Levels of satisfaction are high across all
ages, races or ethnicity, though they increase with income, education
and are higher "for married mothers and those with high levels of religious
These findings contrast with conventional wisdom which
focuses on the
stress or pressure mothers are under. These mothers described
motherhood as challenging but incredibly rewarding" or "the most demanding
but also the best thing in the world."
Nearly 81 percent said that mothering is the most
important thing they do. One woman
exclaimed that motherhood "is the most precious job in the world. Sometimes
it is overwhelming, but the joy is incredible, when you see what you have
done or somebody says
what a great job you have done with that young man."
At the core of mothers' powerful sense of joy is "a new
and intense kind of love women
experience when they become mothers." More than 93 percent said the
love they feel for their
children is "unlike any love they have experienced," and that her care of
her children is so unique that "no one else can replace it."
Many were surprised by the joy of motherhood. One
commented, "I just didn't know...that the spectrum was going to widen and
there was going to be so much responsibility with so much joy at the same
An unexpected dimension for many moms was how much they
learned from their children. One mother who left a law practice to raise her
two children said, "(Motherhood) is all-encompassing, fulfilling, an
opportunity for ongoing education. You're constantly learning new
things. Continuous improvement. And it's just an opportunity to be a child
all over again, and do all the things that you did before that were fun and
However, only 48 percent of women felt appreciated as
mothers most or all of the time.
Mothers want more time to spend on personal and family
relationships. Four out of five
mothers raising children alone felt that way, but so did 55 percent of
The major competition is work. Some 41 percent of those
surveyed work full-time, but
only 16 percent of all mothers want to work full-time. While 56 percent do
want to work, they
would prefer part-time work, or work from home, now enjoyed by only 1
percent of mothers.
Asked what employers might do to adjust to women's
attitudes toward work, Dr. Erickson noted that the Marriott Corporation had
a lot of absences and tardiness by women who were cleaning hotel rooms. So
Marriott moved to a different form of management, giving teams
of workers autonomy to work out their own schedules. Absenteeism and
An overwhelming 95 percent of mothers wish American
culture made it easier to instill
positive values in children. Nine out of ten were critical of the
media, believe "money has too
much control over our lives" and believe childhood should be a time when
children are protected from large parts of the adult world.
A specific change sought by 86 percent of women were
more efforts to "promote healthy
marriages." Interestingly, there was little difference on this issue
between the 89 percent of
married mothers who want more energy invested to create healthy marriages
and 79 percent of unwed moms who agree.
Asked what might be done, mothers called for widespread
efforts to teach people how to
communicate and to provide counseling for couples who are struggling.
Pastors and church leaders: are you paying attention to
what America's mothers are
saying here? They want new steps to strengthen marriage.
Mothers: I suggest you take this newspaper clip and
hand it to your pastors and elected
church leaders and ask that they set up a forum to listen to mothers from
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