The changing face of motherhood

Mums with older kids have more ‘me time’ – about enough to boil a kettle and have a cuppa; half of us feel working mother guilt; and the main reason we take time out is to save our sanity.

These are some of the findings of the Changing Face of Motherhood Report by Proctor & Gamble, that explores how motherhood has changed in Australia since the turn of the century.

What about me?

‘Me time’ is in short supply once we become mothers. But as our children get older we slowly claw back a few extra minutes a day. 12 minutes, to be exact.

Opportunities for ‘me time’ are least among mothers in the 30-34 age group (33 minutes a day) and the highest in the 40+ age group (45 minutes a day), reflecting a slight freeing up of time as children get older.

Time spent with the kids

The amount of time that mothers devote to active time with their children varies as you would expect between age groups, but still not as much as you would think. Mothers in the 18-29 year age group reported spending 19.2 hours on directly caring for their children per week, while those in the 40+ group spent an average of 14.1 hours per week, or about 2 hours a day.  (This is on top of outside work and other household commitments.) Presumably this takes into account all that running them around to sleepovers, sport and dental appointments, along with homework help.

Mother guilt

We frequently hear about working mother guilt, but Australian mums are fairly evenly split between those who feel guilty (55%) and those who feel no guilt at all (45%) about balancing work commitments with the time they spend with their children (those with children aged 3-5 years were most likely to feel guilty).

Taking time out

In this survey, mothers were asked about their primary motivations for taking time out. 73% of all mums said they did this to maintain their sanity. ‘Me time’ and ‘To spend time with your partner’ were also significant reasons.

Our mothering style

Although many believe that the way we bring up our children is strongly influenced by their own childhood experiences and, in particular, by the role played by their mothers, this poll reveals a different outcome.

78% of today’s mothers believe they have a different parenting style to their own mother. In 34% of cases, today’s mums consider themselves to be more relaxed, and in 29% of cases, they feel they are more nurturing than their own mother was when they were young.

Dads help less with older children

Although it seems that modern day fathers are playing a greater role in raising children than they did in previous generations this was more evident the younger the children. Grandmas came in as the second biggest source of caring for the kids in the home (21%). Sadly, 16% of mums say they have no help at all.

Sources of advice and support

According to parenting author Pinky McKay, motherhood is never, or should never be, a solitary undertaking. It is a special characteristic of the human race that we employ ‘alloparenting’, involving other members of the family and the wider community in at least some aspects of childcare. Our own mums are our greatest source of advice (42%); friends who are also mums were second in importance (39%).


Despite the upbeat feelings towards motherhood, isolation emerged as a widespread issue. No less than 87% of modern day mums say they experience feelings of isolation, with 36% feeling isolated on most days. This figure rises to 55% amongst mothers who are not married.

“While modern day mums are obviously relishing their role, the reality is that being a mum has never been so challenging. With increasing pressure to work a ‘double shift’, to be the perfect hands-on mum as well as going out to work, support networks are more important than ever before,” said Pinky.

Improving the situation

Not surprisingly, getting more help around the home was deemed by most mums as the key to improving their quality of life, followed by more flexible working hours.

“The hardest job in the world, is the best job in the world”

And now, to prove  that mums are awesome (and quite possibly to make you cry a litte), Proctor & Gamble has released a new ad celebrating the role of mums all over the world in helping their children achieve great things. Like reaching the 2012 Olympic Games.


Happy Mother’s Day.





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