On the second Sunday of May, the United States and many other countries celebrate Mother’s Day. Based on a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, today’s mothers should be honored more than ever. According to the study it has never been more difficult to be a parent – especially a mother.

From managing busy schedules to dealing with outside influences, mothers have their hands full these days. There is broad agreement among the public that it is harder to be a parent today – especially a mother – than it was in the 1970s or 1980s. Fully 70% of the public says it is more difficult to be a mother today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, while somewhat fewer (60%) say the same about being a father.

The study found that mothers are seen as having the more difficult job, but they are also judged more harshly than are fathers. More than half of Americans (56%) say that mothers are doing a worse job today than mothers did 20 or 30 years ago. By comparison, somewhat fewer people (47%) say fathers are doing a worse job than fathers did 20 or 30 years ago.

The biggest challenge in raising children today, according to parents and non-parents alike, is dealing with the outside influences of society. Nearly four-in-ten Americans (38%) list societal factors when asked to name the biggest challenge for parents today. Among the top specific concerns mentioned are drugs and alcohol, peer pressure, and the impact of television and other media.

Beyond societal influences, other perceived challenges in raising children include teaching morals and values, maintaining discipline, handling the financial aspects of childrearing, and dealing with the educational system.

Women’s views about how well mothers are doing their job have changed little over the past decades. In a 1997 Pew Research Center survey of women, a majority (56%) said that mothers of children under age 18 were doing a worse job as parents than mothers did 20 or 30 years ago; in the current survey, 54% of women express this view.

As was the case two decades ago, middle-aged women are more critical of today’s moms than are younger women. Fully 66% of women ages 50-64 say today’s mothers are doing a worse job. This compares with just 41% of women younger than 30, 56% of women ages 30-49, and 48% of women ages 65 and older.

Religious affiliation also influences views on motherhood. White evangelical Protestants are among the most critical of the job today’s mothers are doing. More than two-thirds of white evangelicals (68%) say moms are doing a worse job today when compared with mothers 20-30 years ago. This compares with 54% of white non-evangelical Protestants, 50% of white Catholics, and 47% of seculars.

Working Mothers

The challenges of balancing work and family life and finding enough time to spend with children are bigger issues for parents today, especially for women.

In the United States today, more than half of mothers with young children work, compared to about one third in the 1970s. Working mothers are now the rule rather than the exception.

Women have been moving into the workforce not only for career satisfaction but also because they and their families need the income.

Some people still think that a “good mother” is one who gives up work to stay home with her children. However, no scientific evidence says children are harmed when their mothers work. A child’s development is influenced more by the emotional health of the family, how the family feels about the mother’s working, and the quality of child care. A child who is emotionally well adjusted, well loved, and well cared for will thrive regardless of whether the mother works outside the home.

A mother who successfully manages both an outside job and parenthood provides a role model for her child.