The #1 Reason Working Moms are Dissatisfied Might Not Be What You Expect

working mom

Work life balance, satisfaction, integration — whatever you call it, being a working mom today is tough.

Work is 24/7—and so are the kids, the laundry and all the other chores that fuel the business of family. As election season approaches, the Working Mother Research Institute checked in with 1,500 working moms to find out how they keep the fires burning on the home and work fronts and reveal what domestic issues are most important to them.

We found that the dual roles of caregiver and provider are stoking stress levels to new heights.

Let’s start with the good news: The working moms we surveyed for new our report, Moms@Work: The Working Mother Report, report that compared to two years ago, flex is on the rise at work. (Notably, a flexible work schedule and culture beat out competitive earnings in terms of what women say is important when choosing a job.)

Working moms also feel good about their kids: 87 percent are happy with their relationship with their children, while 85 percent are satisfied with their kids’ prospects in life.

Now the bad news. Our study, sponsored by Morgan Stanley (a Working Mother 100 Best Company for the 14th time this year), found that half the working moms we surveyed still struggle to fulfill work responsibilities and attend to family needs.

We recorded the highest dissatisfaction levels on the career front, where fewer than half of all moms believe they have the opportunity to advance. Women who are not satisfied with their opportunity to advance and/or their work life balance are far more likely to consider leaving their job. (Again, having flexibility correlates with work satisfaction: 68 percent of women with flexibility say they are satisfied with their career prospects, versus only 42 percent of women without it.)

But working moms are also unhappy with the amount of time they have for themselves, with one quarter saying they are plainly dissatisfied. Less than half say they get enough exercise, while more than 40 percent say they aren’t eating healthy (even though 71 percent say their kids do).

Of course, women aren’t just caring for children. In our survey, 20 percent have elder care responsibilities, and an additional 6 percent anticipate having those duties within five years. Morgan Stanley, for example, offers employees membership in, a dependent care site, and reports that 74 percent of those who use it are looking for elder care.

Indeed, while the pressures on working moms can come from all sides, the opportunity for relief is clear: flexibility and a supportive manager. Serving our employees as the complex people we all are will go a long way at building and improving engagement, productivity and wellness. Flex works for all.

About the Author

Jennifer Owens is editor of Spring.St, the place for smart women. Formerly, she was editorial director of Working Mother magazine & founding director of the Working Mother Research Institute, home to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies and Best Companies for Multicultural Women, among other initiatives.