MADISON, NJ - Although the job of being a mom has become more difficult, Americans credit their moms more than their dads for contributing in a positive way to their development over the course of their lives. A new national survey of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that three-quarters (74%) of respondents believe moms have it harder today as compared with generations past, and by an almost two-to-one margin, Americans credit their mothers (46%) more than their fathers (24%) for cultivating positive traits over the course of their lives.
“All of the juggling that moms have to do today isn’t easy, but apparently they’re doing it well given the high marks Americans give to their moms for helping them grow in a positive way,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and author of the recently published book Mothers, Daughters, and Political Socialization: Two Generations at an American Women’s College (Temple University Press, 2013). “These numbers confirm what we all know. Moms are owed a debt of gratitude for their hard work, and that’s especially true on Mother’s Day.”
Women (80%) and individuals with children (78%) are among those who are the most likely to perceive motherhood as something that’s harder today than it once was, as compared with men (68%) and the childless (61%).
The poll also asked about things that might shed some light on why being a mom is perceived harder today relative to generations past. For example, the difficulty of combining work and family is well known, as many women today struggle with the demands of a career and fulfilling the role of a good mother. Although hard at times, an overwhelming majority of Americans (86%) believe paid employment outside the home doesn’t prevent one from being a good mom.
“Whether out of choice or necessity, many moms today are faced with the demands of ‘having it all’ at the same time and fret over the compromises they feel they make to their children. These numbers at least suggest that society no longer believes they’re doomed to failure,” said Jenkins.
If being a mom today is harder than it once was, one reason that’s revealed in the poll is the increased emphasis on appearance that moms today experience. Two-thirds (68%) believe mothers today are under more pressure to look youthful and fit relative to their mothers with only a fifth (21%) who say there’s been no change in emphasis, and four percent who believe less attention is paid to appearance today. Women (73%) are more likely than men (61%) to believe the change in emphasis has been for the worse and not the better
“Americans appear to believe that motherhood no longer provides any degree of respite from the cradle to grave monitoring of a woman’s appearance,” said Jenkins. “Moms today are expected to do it all well, and look good while doing it, even though being a good mom often leaves a woman with little time to herself.”
The poll also asked about whether children today rely too much, not enough, or draw the right amount of support from mothers today. On this, opinion is divided. A third (34%) think a maternal influence should be stronger, while a fifth (21%) believe kids are too tied to their mom’s apron strings, and a quarter (24%) say the mother/child bond is strong enough. Those with children are more apt to believe kids need their moms more (36%) as compared with those who are not parents (26%).
“We’ve all heard of the ‘Helicopter Mom,’ but apparently she’s less prevalent than is often thought,” said Jenkins.
Opinion is also divided over the use of technology as a tool for staying connected with kids and being a good mom. When asked about whether the use of cell phones and computers make it harder, easier, or no difference when it comes to mothering, a third (36%) believe they make a mom’s job easier, while opinion was equally split (28% and 25%) on whether they make no difference or make the job of mothering harder.
Turning to politics, registered voters were asked which party does a better job of representing maternal interests. Again, opinion is divided, with “neither” taking the prize (39%), followed by the Democratic Party (32%) and the Republican Party (20%).
Democratic moms also edge out Republican moms when it comes to a question about political women and the job they’ve done combining their political roles and motherhood. First Lady Michelle Obama (32%) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (23%) are chosen more often than U.S. Representative (R-MN) and former presidential candidate Michelle Bachman (6%) and former Alaska Governor and one-time vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (18%).
“Even though the Democrats might feel vindicated by these findings, it’s also true that the choice that garnered the most responses was neither party, suggesting that both Democrats and Republicans have some work to do in convincing Americans that they’re the party for moms,” said Jenkins.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 863 registered voters was conducted nationally by telephone with both landline and cell phones from April 22 through April 28, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/-3.4 percentage points.