A national survey by the Pew Research Center found broad agreement among the public that it is harder to be a parent today – especially a mother – than it was in the 1970s or 1980s. Fully 70% of the public says it is more difficult to be a mother today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, while somewhat fewer (60%) say the same about being a father.
Mothers Judged More Harshly
However, while mothers are seen as having the more difficult job, they are also judged more harshly than are fathers. More than half of Americans (56%) say that mothers are doing a worse job today than mothers did 20 or 30 years ago. By comparison, somewhat fewer people (47%) say fathers are doing a worse job than fathers did 20 or 30 years ago.
Overall, 70% of Americans say that mothers today have a more difficult job than mothers did 20 or 30 years ago. Fewer than one-in-five (17%) say the job of motherhood is about the same as it was then, while roughly one-in-ten (11%) say it is easier today. By comparison, 60% believe that it is more difficult to be a father than it was 20 or 30 years ago. About a quarter (26%) say fatherhood is about the same as it was a generation ago, while 12% say it is easier.
Fathers Know Better?
Fathers today get higher grades than mothers for their performance, especially from women. Overall, 47% of Americans say fathers of children under the age of 18 are now doing a worse job as parents than fathers did 20 or 30 years ago; this compares with 56% who say mothers are doing a worse job. About one-in-five (21%) say today’s fathers are doing a better job compared with fathers a generation ago; far fewer (9%) say that today’s mothers are doing a better job than their predecessors 20 or 30 years ago.
However, while a solid majority of men (55%) say today’s fathers are doing a worse job than did fathers a generation ago, just 40% of women agree. Most women say that today’s fathers are now doing a better job (27%), or at least as good a job (29%), as fathers did 20 or 30 years ago. Women are much harder on themselves – 54% say today’s mothers are doing a worse job when compared with mothers 20 or 30 years ago.
Mothers Are Tough – On Mothers
Still, it is Mother’s Day this weekend, and its worth noting that women’s views about how well mothers are doing their job have changed little over the past decade, according to the Pew Research Center. A decade ago, 56% said that mothers of children under age 18 were doing a worse job as parents than mothers did 20 or 30 years ago – compared with 54% today. As was the case 10 years ago, middle-aged women are more critical of today’s moms than are younger women.
And though most women (71%) say it is more difficult to be a mother today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, in Pew’s 1997 motherhood survey, 81% expressed this view.