Being present and available for your kids while striving to achieve professional success at the same time is a delicate balancing act for all working parents. Yet, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center, there are some significant differences in how moms and dads experience the tensions of parenting and working.
About the same percentage of dads (51%) and moms (53%) say that working makes it harder to be a good parent. However, 50% of mothers said that being a parent made it harder to advance in their careers compared to only 39% of fathers. Moms also said they were passed over for promotions and assignments and were treated as if they weren’t committed to their work at higher rates than dads. Yet, despite these differences with working fathers, 84% of moms working full time say that their current employment situation is what’s best for them at the moment.
Joan C. Williams, an author and professor of law, calls this the maternal wall. “Women who have been very successful may suddenly find their proficiency questioned once they become pregnant, take maternity leave, or adopt flexible work schedules. Their performance evaluations may plummet, and their political support evaporates,” she writes. “When a childless woman is not in the office, she is presumed to be on business. An absent mother is often thought to be grappling with child care.”
So what’s the solution? Amy Nelson, founder and CEO of The Riveter, believes that amplifying this issue, particularly by men, is key to demolishing the maternal wall. In a column for Forbes, she writes, “we must talk frequently and openly about how women are sidelined when they have kids until we see a stronger shift in the tide. I would be remiss if I did not reiterate how important it is that men lead this conversation.”
It’s going to take everyone, men and women, parents and non-parents to make the workplace a better place for moms. Together we can tear down the wall, piece by piece.