Blog Post

May 5, 2020

Commitment to Family, Faith, Career & Community: Mothers Juggle It All

Moms do a lot—and that’s a very simplified way of saying “nearly everything.” Being a mom means juggling work, home life, church responsibilities and friends; it means finding the balance in a world where so many people (especially your children) vie for attention. As Mother’s Day 2020 approaches and the COVID-19 crisis continues, many moms are among the parents who are renegotiating the boundaries and responsibilities of their various commitments while they social distance, work from home and oversee virtual learning for their kids. As a mom in this moment, finding that elusive time for oneself—whether that means a day at the spa, a movie night with a spouse or a four-mile run outdoors—is even more challenging.

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Though celebrations might look different this year, Barna’s research is clear about moms’ central roles in households and communities. We’ll highlight some of those insights below.

A few of the articles listed below come from our Households of Faith report, our second study with Lutheran Hour Ministries that offers an in-depth look into the home lives of practicing Christians. Currently, Barna is offering a limited time offer for a free digital download of this study. If you don’t yet have a copy of the report, visit our store and use promo code HOUSEHOLDS at checkout to receive Households of Faith for free.

1. The Powerful Influence of Moms in Christians’ Households
Recent Barna data show that mothers—more often than fathers, or any other category of frequent participants in households—are seen as the confidants, providers of support and drivers of faith formation. We observe this dynamic in the responses of adults, who esteem and rely on their moms as sources of strength, companionship and wisdom. In fact, some of the clearest examples of the broad impact of mothers surface in the responses of Gen Z, who offer a portrait of mom who are present, passionate and faithful.

Practicing Christians in their teen years consistently identify mothers as the ones who provide spiritual guidance and instruction and instill the values and disciplines of their faith in the household. Moms are their foremost partners in prayer (63%) and conversations about God (70%), the Bible (71%) or other faith questions (72%). This is consistent with Barna data through the years that show mothers to be the managers of faith formation (among other household routines and structures). Mothers are also the ones encouraging church attendance (79%) or teaching kids about the Bible (66%), God’s forgiveness (66%) and religious traditions (72%)

2. Balancing Career & Kids
Society has long debated whether women can “have it all”—or what that means in the first place. Christians at Work, a study conducted in partnership with Abilene Christian University, suggests that mothers are making more compromises than fathers do in pursuit of a family and / or a satisfying career. While this group is relatively gratified in their family relationships, Barna’s study of employed Christians shows that working moms (compared with fathers, single men and single women) are well behind on all metrics of satisfaction—relational, spiritual, emotional, you name it. Their attitudes toward vocation also differ. For instance, even though both mothers and fathers share an equal desire to use their gifts and talents for the good of others (64% and 62%), mothers feel significantly less called to or made for their current work than fathers (38% compared to 55%).

Based on this study alone, Barna can’t weigh in on how vocation is experienced among stay-at-home-parents, as the sample was made up of only employed Christians and the aim was to specifically explore vocational attitudes within one’s paid occupation. But as U.S. women increasingly assume the role of sole or at least co-breadwinner, these findings have widespread implications in both the home and workplace. Tellingly, the sweet spot for Christian women’s vocational fulfillment—and, inversely, the low point for male respondents—is actually when they have never even been married. Christians at Work delves more into how single women find a drive and gratification exceeding even that of working fathers.

3. Behind the Steep Decline in Church Attendance in Women
It’s no secret that the rate of the religiously unaffiliated has risen significantly in the last 30 years, and church attendance has declined as well. However, this trend is not consistent across gender or age groups. To test that, political scientist and Barna guest columnist Ryan Burge calculated the average church attendance of both men and women 18–35-years-old as well as those over the age of 35, finding that the average level of church attendance is down for all groups, but the rate of decline is much steeper for women, particularly those in the older age group.

Why is this happening? It’s nearly impossible to point to one causal mechanism, but Burge offers a few explanations as to what may be going on and how churches can support their female congregants during this shift.

4. Meet the Millennial Parents
Data show that while a majority of young adults has delayed having children, there is a small percentage who have chosen to begin a family. Who exactly are the 35 percent of young adults who, unlike the majority of their peers, have children? Barna wanted to know more about this segment—who represent a growing minority of their generation, a counter to many stereotypes about young adults’ delayed adolescence and a fresh area of research.

This Q&A excerpt from The Connected Generation report features Dorit Reichstein Hejslet, Communications for Open Doors Denmark and mother to three children, a Millennial parent sharing her take on parenting as a young adult and her hopes for the future.

5. What Americans Think About Women in Power
The makeup of the American workplace is transforming. The amount of women in the labor force has grown from 27 percent in 1948 to 47 percent in 2015. The majority of Americans (77%) is comfortable with the future possibility of more women than men in the workforce, including both men (75%) and women (78%). But the younger generations are more open than their older peers: Millennials, many of whom have come of age in the wake of third-wave feminism, are the most comfortable (84%) compared to 57 percent of Elders. Though a majority of evangelicals are comfortable (52%), they remain the most hesitant, perhaps due to a more traditional interpretation of women’s roles as primary caregivers in the home. More working women means couples with children are approaching child-rearing in a variety of ways. This includes, of course, the more recent phenomenon of the “stay-at-home dad,” a scenario with which most American adults say they are comfortable (82%).

Most Americans share the concern that significant obstacles still make it harder for women to get ahead than men (53%). Three in 10 (30%) believe those obstacles are largely gone. Women are more likely to believe those obstacles exist than men (59% vs. 46%). Interestingly, Boomers are just as likely as Millennials to believe obstacles still exist (58% and 57%), suggesting that little has changed between the generations. Evangelicals are the most skeptical of the existence of barriers for women in the workplace. Less than one-third (32%)—fewer than any other segment Barna studied—believes significant obstacles still exist.

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Feature image by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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