Mothering is work. For Mother’s Day, I’d like a raise, please

This Mother’s Day, let’s show moms everywhere our gratitude for their selflessness, hard work and dedication by giving them a pay raise, paid time off, benefits and cool office mates (i.e., a village, please). 

That’s the way I want to celebrate my role as mama this year. Sure, I’ll take the flowers and breakfast in bed, too, but if you really want to acknowledge all that I do and the multitude of ways I provide for our family, start treating me like a paid employee. 

I’m a mother, an employee and a business owner. I work full-time from home while I also work to provide childcare for my daughter. I’m exhausted by 11 am and tired of apologizing to everyone in my professional and personal life for half-way showing up all the time. 

I’m with the 26% of mothers who responded to Motherly’s 2024 State of Motherhood survey to say they are frustrated trying to juggle a career and motherhood, as it simply isn’t realistic. I’m one person, doing the job of two (if not three). I’m sorry but a card and chocolates won’t cut it anymore as a symbol of society’s gratitude for my role as a mother. 

For Mother’s Day, I’d like a raise, please, and I’d like one for you, too, mama.

Mothering is work

Mothering is work—and there continues to be more and more data that supports this. We can’t keep ignoring it. 

A 2018 study commissioned by Welch’s looked at 2,000 American moms of children between 5 and 12 years old and found that the average mom works 98 hours per week. That’s equal to two and a half full-time jobs. According to the study, the average mama’s day begins around 6:23 am and doesn’t end until 8:31 pm. That’s with no 30-minute paid breaks, bathroom pit stops or lunch hour.

We live in an output-focused, data-driven society; one that applauds the evidence of hard work, independence and proof of success. We value numbers and dollars. But somehow we still don’t recognize this 98-hour work week, nor the actual labor it is composed of and the money it saves.

According to 2021 data from, a stay-at-home mom should be receiving a salary of up to $184,820. That’s not small change. She’s saving her family thousands of dollars. 

How do you truly measure the work of motherhood? 

Is it the number of changed diapers or empathetic responses to toddler meltdowns? Is it the number of well visits or focused attention? If we’re looking for a way to tangibly classify motherhood as “work”, it isn’t quantifiable in that way. There is the emotional and mental load of motherhood and the physical aspect too. So much of mothering is invisible. 

How do you measure something you can’t see?

That doesn’t mean this work doesn’t exist; in fact, you know it does because no one else does it but you, mama. 

Moms are still doing it all

You’re the one that anticipates everyone’s needs and schedules doctor appointments and playdates. You’re the one who is emotionally available to tend to the meltdowns.

It’s you, mama. All you.

And you do it all without question, little complaint and in sickness and health. You do it because you “signed up for this” and wanted to be a mother, so this is all your choice. You’re the one who rearranges your job or quits it all together to care for the family. 

You do it because it is what is expected of you. 

You are the expected parent. And maybe the only parent too. 

Related: Here’s why the Great Resignation has been so much more complicated for moms

We’ve taken strides in our society toward gender equality, yet we still have some ways to go—and parenthood is chief among them. 

According to Motherly’s survey, we see an uptick across the board on duties like scheduling, errands, cleaning, meal prep and so on among mothers who have partners. Forty-two percent report being primarily responsible for household chores and duties.

Bottom line: Your time is not your own. Sixty percent of moms also say that in the last day, they had less than one hour to themselves without work or family obligations. 

This is not to say that partners or fathers don’t carry their own invisible load, too. They do; yet it may not always take the same emotional, mental and physical toll as overseeing the minute details as required by Mom. 

It’s no wonder why 38% of mothers report feeling “frequently” burned out, according to Motherly’s 2024 survey.

The inequality is tangible, and the data (you know, that thing we desire in our society to prove our worth and success) supports this imbalance.

In lieu of a raise, I’ll take lowered expectations

The expectations placed on mothers to be it all and do it all leave us feeling inadequate as we strive daily to achieve this invisible target of perfection. We’re a bunch of perfectionist overachievers, intensively mothering our children at the cost of our own well-being. 

When we strive for perfection in motherhood, we send the message to our children that they should aim for perfection too. If they see us feeling guilt and shame at being unable to live up to these unrealistic standards, they’ll internalize their own struggle with perfectionism similarly. It’s much healthier to model being “human,” but that feels “less than” when we’ve been told we’re superheroes.

Good enough does not mean less than, mama. 

Being a “good enough” mother is about embracing your entire human experience. It’s about taking off the mask of the perfect mother and showing up as you are. It has nothing to do with how hard you work or your value. 

It is the mama telling herself “I am a good mom. I know I am a good mom” and accepting her mistakes. It’s owning up to them as they happen and talking about them with her children. It’s demonstrating the unconditional love for herself that teaches her children to do the same.  

Related: I am not a perfect mom, but I am a ‘good enough’ mom

Adjusting your own expectations

Once we’ve acknowledged that we’ve internalized society’s expectations of mothers as our own, we can begin to undo these beliefs and mother in accordance with our own values. 

To do this, start by writing out your understanding of what the perfect mother is. We all have our own versions based on experiences from our childhood, cultural upbringing, economic status and of course, pop culture. Get clear as to what these unrealistic expectations are. 

As you go, pay attention to what feels right to you and what the “shoulds” are you have been telling yourself, like, “I should prepare homemade meals every night.” 

Notice the “shoulds” as you write them; what do you actually care about versus what you think you should care about? Ask yourself what you value, and then write out a list of those values. 

Use this as a guide to making mothering decisions moving forward. Before you make any decision, ask yourself to define the “why” behind it. If it’s a “should,” then maybe don’t do it. If it feels right to you at your core, stick with it, mama. You’re now mothering more in alignment with your values. 

This Mother’s Day, until you get a paycheck for the work you do as a mother, allow yourself permission to be human. Allow yourself the space to be imperfect, to be good enough, to connect with what makes you, well, you. 

Because you’re doing a good job, mama. I know it. 

A version of this story was originally published on May 2, 2022. It has been updated.

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