BookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxFilledCheckBoxCircleBumpCheckedFilledMedical

Years of Research Prove What We Already Know: Working Moms in the US Are Drowning in Stress

A sociologist spent five years observing parenthood in wealthy western countries and concluded working moms in the US have it the worst.
save article
profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
By Stephanie Grassullo, Contributing Writer
Published March 13, 2019
working moms are under tremendous chronic stress
Image: iStock

Women can have it all. Or at least that’s what we’re told until we become mothers and are forced to navigate the murky waters of a work-life balance. Spoiler alert: It’s nearly impossible.

Sociologist Caitlyn Collins is the topic of a recent article on Psychology Today. She spent five years observing parenthood in four wealthy western countries—Sweden, Germany, Italy and the US. Her conclusion? Guilt and worry are synonymous with working moms in the US. Collins shares her research in the book Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving, where she notes the work-life conflict many moms know all too well.

As Collins points out, motherhood looks different from nation to nation. In Sweden, known for its gender-equal policies, mothers assume they’ll receive support from partners, employers and the government. The former East Germany has a history of universal employment for men and women. Mothers here didn’t express worries about working, and felt they had enough support from policies and childcare. Even with that in place, moms there still put a limit on their work hours and career ambitions.

Part-time work is common for mothers in Western Germany and Italy, where the nations are built largely on the belief that kids should be raised by mothers. As a result, some women feel raising kids and working full-time don’t mix, and feel singled out if they want to pursue a career.

Ultimately, however, Collins found each of the regions has different policies in place to help mothers that virtually don’t exist in the US. As a result, working moms in America are drowning in stress.

Although improved policies are a step in the right direction, Collins says it alone won’t fix the problem. In order to do that, we need to better understand our cultural beliefs that shape gender equality, employment and motherhood.

“Women who are committed to their careers but take too much time away for their family are thought to violate the work devotion schema, while those who avoid or delegate their familial commitments violate the family devotion schema,” she explains in her book.

What this means is we’re setting moms up for failure.

“I want American moms to stop blaming themselves,” Collins tells Psychology Today. “I want American mothers to stop thinking that somehow their conflict is their own fault, and that if they tried a little harder, got a new schedule, woke up a little earlier every morning, using the right planner or the right app, that they could somehow figure out the key to managing their stress.”

There’s a long road ahead, but it’s not an impossible task. Collins hopes her readers will walk away inspired to make much-needed change.

“If all these other wealthy Western industrialized nations have figured it out, why can’t we?" she comments to Psychology Today. “There are a lot of smart people here and we can figure it out.”

save article
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

mom kissing baby at home
Tips for Planning Your Return to Work After Parental Leave
Fact Checked by G. O’Hara
mother working on laptop while holding baby
These Are the Best States for Working Moms in 2024
By Wyndi Kappes
erin andrews and her baby for enfamil campaign
Erin Andrews on Squashing Mom Guilt and Navigating Life With Baby
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
mother kissing baby before leaving for work
These States Provide the Best Work-Life Balance
By Wyndi Kappes
woman working at desk
Study: Providing Parents With Support Makes Businesses More Profitable
By Wyndi Kappes
Victoria Monét and two-year-old daughter Hazel Monét Gaines celebrate their Grammy nominations by indulging in Jimmy John’s Red Velvet Cookies while preparing for the awards show on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California
Victoria Monét and Daughter—The Grammy’s Youngest Nominee—Make History
By Wyndi Kappes
allison holker and family
Allison Holker Boss on Dancing, Resilience and Finding Her New Normal
By Nehal Aggarwal
ADVERTISEMENT
mom sitting at table at home thinking and pondering
I Was an Accidental SAHM—and I’m Done Feeling Guilty About It
By Kristen Bringe
Kristin Davis at the New York Pemiere of "And Just Like That..." A New Chapter of Sex and The City held at MoMA on December 8, 2021 in New York City
Why Moms Are Loving Charlotte's ‘and Just Like That’ Monologue
By Wyndi Kappes
78 Percent of Moms Are Overwhelmed by Pumping at Work
78 Percent of Moms Are Overwhelmed by Pumping at Work
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
mother holding sleeping baby at home
Caregiving Reduces Mom's Lifetime Earnings by 15 Percent, Report Says
By Wyndi Kappes
working mother sitting at home with baby and breast pump
What the PUMP Act Means for Working Parents
By Wyndi Kappes
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hugs his daughter Poppy on the ninth hole during the Par 3 Contest prior to the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2023, in Augusta, Georgia
Kids Take the Masters by Storm Dressed as Adorable Caddies
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
mother wearing baby in wrap while working on laptop at home
Study: Parents Work Longer Hours Than Non-Parents Amid Recession Fears
By Wyndi Kappes
P!nk attends the 2022 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 20, 2022 in Los Angeles, California
Balancing Acts: Pink Shares Her Journey as a Rockstar Mom
By Wyndi Kappes
Sanya Richards Ross and family
Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross on Motherhood and Finding Balance
By Nehal Aggarwal
Reps. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., Andy Kim, D-N.J., left, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., conduct a news conference to announce the Congressional Dads Caucus outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, January 26, 2023
Congress’ New Dads Caucus Advocates for Working Parents
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Shonda Rhimes attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Shonda Rhimes Shares the Secret Behind How She Does It All
By Wyndi Kappes
MommiNation founders talking at fundraiser event
How MommiNation Is Helping to Empower a Community of Black Moms
By Jen Hayes Lee
Rihanna is seen outside the Dior show, during Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear F/W 2022-2023, on March 01, 2022 in Paris, France
Rihanna Says Being a Mom Pushed Her to Perform at the Super Bowl
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.