The Double Burden of Working Moms

Every woman’s dream is that a man will take her in his arms, throw her into bed, and clean the house while she sleeps.

— The Internet

The working mom is a modern-day superhero in every sense of the word. While holding down a full-time job, women spend twice as much time doing housework vs men, and four times as much time raising children.

Given this double burden that women experience, it’s no wonder that women are angry, frustrated, and exhausted, or that a significant gender pay gap exists.

What is the double burden of housework vs career for working mothers?

No matter what country you’re in, women and girls take on the majority of unpaid domestic labor. Women work far longer hours than men when both paid and unpaid work is accounted for. While they’ve made leaps and bounds on labor force participation, they still carry the bulk of the work at home:

  • They work a full time job, contributing nearly 40% of World GDP.
  • When their paid job ends, their next job is just beginning … they cook, they clean, and they raise our children among countless other unpaid domestic labor duties.

The results of a study released by Welch’s looked at 2,000 American moms of kids between 5 and 12 years old. When they added it up, they found that moms work 98 hours per week – the equivalent of 2.5 jobs!

According to the results, mom clocks in at 6.23am on average – and she doesn’t stop doing career or parent-related tasks until 8.31pm on a typical day – a 14-hour shift that equates to a 98-hour work week.


GDP, which is based almost entirely on measuring the value of goods and services that were bought and sold for cash, calculates that women do under half of society’s work … but, that’s only because unpaid domestic labor – house-care, child-care, hubby-care, all of a woman’s other cares – are not factored into national production figures. If economists factored-in domestic work, you’d find that women produce a lot more than half of the world’s GDP.
The Conversation

But “Women clean; men fix the car”? None of the reports we’ve found back up this argument that different gender roles in the home mean that household chores are split up evenly.

Our cartoon series, “The Invisible Woman” takes a seriously funny poke at this inequity.

Gender pay gap Implications of double duty

The gender pay gap in the United States is the ratio of female-to-male median or average (depending on the source) yearly earnings among full-time, year-round workers.


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women’s pay was 80 to 83% compared to men in the same role. (17 – 20% lower).  A study by Statscan found that women aged 15/16 years and older earned from $0.69 to $0.89 for every dollar earned by men in 2017.

As you’ll see in the following image, there are very few jobs where women earn more than men:

The discrepancy between men and women’s pay isn’t always out of malicious intent, women are systematically disadvantaged in their career for a number of reasons ranging from centuries of cultural norms to women’s outsized share of domestic labor at home.

Why does double burden contribute to gender pay gaps?

There are many reasons that support how the double burden holds women back in their careers, contributing to the gender pay gap.

Maternity leave

Women are much more likely to take maternity leave. Because of this, women take off a significant amount of time at the highest point of growth in their career. While they’re at home caring for their newborn, their male counterparts are rising through the ranks and progressing in their careers.

The “Motherhood Penalty

The Motherhood Penalty suggests that working mothers “experience systematic disadvantages in pay, perceived competence, and benefits compared to childless women”. Mothers may also experience poorer performance evaluations, which indicate that they are less committed to their jobs, less dependable, and less authoritative than non-mothers. 

Adverse health outcomes from higher workloads

A study found that the higher work-family burden leads to higher sickness absence compared to men because increased work strain leads to adverse health outcomes.

Wage discrimination

Wage discrimination or compensation discrimination against women is illegal, but it’s no secret that it still happens, and many employers get away with it.

What would be the salary of a mother?

NOT ENOUGH selected a handful of jobs that reflect “a day in the life” of mom.

They found that if you put a salary on the many types of roles that moms perform at home, the medium annual salary of a mother would be $162,581. (I wonder if they factored in overtime!?)

Where do we go from here? 

Well, wealthier families can hire cleaners, nannies, and meal prep services to allow both parents to work. That’s not an economic reality for most women on earth.

The key to solving this inequity, both at home, and in the workplace, is to challenge gender roles within the household, and split up the duties evenly … For men and women alike to be conscious of this burden that so many women face.

More reading on “The Second Shift” that working moms face

The Second Shift Book by Arlie Hochschild, and Anne Machung

The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home

For those who would like to read the seminal work in this field of study, check-out the updated version of this book.  It cites a range of recent studies and statistics and includes a new afterword in which the author assesses how much – and how little – has changed for women today:
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