In our recent SheByShe survey, “Wonder Woman: Work-Life Balance,” we asked respondents whether or not they feel better off than their mothers when she was their age. Most women in the study, 69 percent, do feel better off than their mothers.
In the survey, which features the outlooks of Internet-savvy, mostly millennial working women, respondents shared hundreds of comments about their feelings, many of which we share with you below. We appreciate the candor and hope the participating women valued the opportunity to reflect on their lives.
WHY WOMEN FEEL AHEAD
There’s a long list of reasons why women feel better off than their mothers. The most common reasons revolve around having a better family life, being married versus being a single mom, or not marrying at a young age, along with having more control over planning when and how many children to have.
As one woman said, “My mom was single, raising two kids, had no college education, and very little income.” Another commented, “My mother is dissatisfied now and was when I was a child as well. Having children held her back.” While a third said, “She had two kids and was a stay at home mom. I, on the other hand, have traveled and done things on my own, without kids or a husband.”
The next most common reason cited for feeling better off than their mothers centers around career achievements. One SheByShe respondent said, “My mother never achieved a college degree. She has no financial stability. I do have these things.” Another said, “I have a career, neither kids nor a husband to focus on. I can afford to make certain sacrifices for my career.” And, “I’m working on a career before I start a family, trying to be financially stable and happy."
Women also cited reasons including more financial stability, more opportunities, experiences and accomplishments, greater educational achievements, better health or physical conditioning, happier outlook and more independence.
One woman shared, “I have been able to give my children experiences I did not have as a child.” Another said, “She was a stay at home mom that got into workforce late in life and had no time to advance due to illness.” And, “I have something for myself. I have an education. My whole world is not always about everyone else's needs. My mother’s whole life was about taking care of others. She never made time for a career, hobby, or friends.”
WHY OTHER WOMEN DON’T FEEL AHEAD
On the other side of the coin, 31 percent of the women participating in the study do not feel they are better off than their mothers when she was their age. Again, there is a long list of reasons why, and at the top of that list is financial security. “Financially, yes; work-to-life, no. She enjoyed life outside of work, but did not have a career,” is how one respondent commented. Another said, “She seemed to make more money and was less stressed.” And a third said, “She had the option to work part time because my father's income could support our family for the most part.”
The second most commonly cited reason centers around marriage status. As one woman said, “She had a husband, a career, and a family by my age and was fulfilled and supported.” Another respondent said, “She had two children and had been happily married to my dad for 16 years.”
Many of these women feel their mother was a “Wonder Woman,” able to juggle family and a career. The responding women don’t feel as accomplished. As one said, “My mom always looked perfect, acted perfect, and kept house perfect, I feel I am a failure.” While another commented, “My mother has two degrees, raised a family, and managed to keep it all together.” And a third said, “Mom had children, lived on her own and had a well paying job by my age.”
There were many other reasons cited including different time/life paths, better mental outlook, mom being happier and mother being able not to work.
One respondent summarized by saying, “I feel more tired at my age than my mother is at her age now. My mother was able to cook almost every night even though she worked. I barely cook because am so tired most of the time. I never have napped before. Now every weekend afternoon I need to take a nap to get through the weekend and my household duties and catch up on sleep from the past week.” While another said, “I have so much student loan debt that it prevents me from being able to achieve more. Also, the cost of living then to now is substantially different, making it harder to get ahead.” And, a third said, “It seems like they had less demands and life was not full of expectations around every corner.”
SIMPLE THOUGHTS SUM IT UP
Many of the comments were simple but powerful: “I feel blessed. I'm not sure my mom ever did.”
And, one of our favorites helps us remember the power of a mother’s impact: “I'm showing my daughters how to provide for themselves and be an equal partner in a marriage.”
How about you? Do you feel better off than your mother when she was your age?