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4 Things Leaders Need to Know to Support Working Moms

4 Things Leaders Need to Know to Support Working Moms

by Ellyn Maese

The U.S. economy, organizations and communities increasingly rely on mothers.

Labor force participation among mothers with young children (ages 0-4) is at an all-time high. Currently, more than 70% of mothers of children younger than age 5 and about 80% of mothers of children ages 5-18 are working. This high level of participation emphasizes the insight and productivity mothers bring to work each day.

In fact, younger women (ages 25-34) -- who are more likely to be or to become mothers -- are driving the labor force growth in some states. A recent collaboration between Gallup and Spark! Strategic Solutions explores mothers’ lives and perspectives at the state level, focusing on Idaho. This in-depth examination of motherhood sheds new light on nationwide trends in women’s workplace experiences, which Gallup has been tracking for decades.

The data indicate four key insights business owners and leaders need to know to support mothers and those who depend on them.

1. "Working Mother" Is a Job Unlike Any Other

Managing both work and motherhood simultaneously comes with unique challenges and rewards.

Working mothers juggle work-related responsibilities alongside child care duties. While balancing both roles can be tricky in the best of circumstances, working mothers also bear the brunt of disruptions like child care coverage issues or children’s illnesses.

A recent nationwide Gallup survey of employees with children revealed that women are three times more likely than men to say they are the default responder to unexpected child care issues in their family (66% among women employees vs. 22% among men employees). Women with children are also twice as likely as men with children to report having had three or more days in the past month when they were unable to perform their usual work responsibilities.

In Idaho, these strains are taking a toll on working mothers. More than half describe feeling tired or burned out (with 57% saying “mostly like me” or “very much like me”) or wishing for more help or support in their day-to-day activities (51%).


However, being a working mother also has its rewards. Three-quarters of working mothers in Idaho (74%) describe being a mother as the most important part of their personal identity. And nearly 9 in 10 working mothers (87%) agree or strongly agree that they have the opportunity to use their strengths each day -- a higher rate than either non-working mothers or workers who are not mothers.

2. Some Working Mothers Want to Work -- Some Need To

Enabling women to join the labor force has been a hallmark of the women’s rights movement, but increased labor force participation among mothers is a reflection of financial realities and freedoms.

When asked about their ideal work arrangement, if money were not a factor, working full time was the least popular option among mothers in Idaho. Many mothers reported a preference for a more even split between work and motherhood. Among mothers who currently work full time, 41% chose part-time work as their preference.

Interestingly, about one in five (19%) who are currently homemakers also view part-time work as their ideal option. This suggests that while many mothers would prefer to work less than they currently do, a sizable number of women in Idaho want to join the labor force.


Preferences about work-motherhood balance can change as children grow. Compared to mothers with very young children (ages 0-4), mothers with school-aged children (ages 5-17) are considerably more likely to express a desire to work -- and twice as likely to express a desire for full-time work.

Despite these desires, practical challenges exist for working mothers in balancing work and life, especially when it comes to having more time for their children. Among Idahoan mothers who would rather work less (i.e., would like to move from full time to part time or would like to transition from working to being a homemaker), 92% cite financial reasons as a barrier to achieving their ideal work-life arrangement.

Yet, even when women need to earn a paycheck, work can be a fulfilling part of their lives and identities if they have the support to be at their best both on and off the job.

3. Access to Good, Affordable Child Care Is a Major Pain Point

Even before the pandemic, access to high-quality and affordable child care was a well-known barrier for working mothers. With federal funding for child care during COVID-19 ending and states struggling to manage the responsibility on their own, the challenge of accessing good, affordable child care has intensified.

In Idaho, despite the vital role of mothers in the workforce, more than 80% of working mothers raising children in their home say that it is somewhat or very difficult to access affordable child care.

Not surprisingly, among those who wish they could work more (i.e., would like to transition from part-time to full-time work or enter the workforce instead of being a homemaker), 49% cite financial reasons, and 70% cite family obligations as major obstacles.


Although various factors contribute to this challenge, are employers really doing enough to support access to child care? Gallup’s 2024 Workforce data suggest that child care benefits are severely lacking, with less than 9% of workers reporting that their employer offers partially subsidized, fully subsidized or on-site child care.

4. Workplace Culture Is Not Working for Mothers

National data indicate that only 39% of women strongly agree that their organization provides the flexibility needed to manage child care responsibilities. Organizations offering this flexibility have employees who are nearly three times as likely to be engaged, about half as likely to be burned out, and 30% less likely to be actively looking or watching for another job opportunity than organizations that do not have flexibility.

Flexible work policies like remote or hybrid options, flextime, and similar solutions for helping adapt work schedules to family demands are vital for working mothers. Yet beyond creating these policies, organizations must foster a work culture that truly supports using those opportunities by encouraging empathy and responsiveness to working mothers’ needs.

In Idaho, only 21% of working mothers who wish they had more help or support in their daily lives say they feel comfortable asking for help when they need it, while nearly four in five (79%) say they do not feel comfortable asking for help when they need it.

Proactively offering assistance and ensuring that requests for help are met with consideration and compassion can reduce unmet needs for help and show respect and value for mothers at work.


Having women in leadership or management roles can also help set the tone; notably, 65% of women report that they would rather work for another woman than a man.

Having women and mothers in positions of authority can ensure women’s needs at work -- including mothers’ -- are considered in decision-making, inspire and support work-life balance, and serve as role models for flexibility.


With mothers making up a substantial part of the labor force, employers, communities, and families all benefit from ensuring moms have the support and flexibility they need to thrive.

Organizations can boost mothers’ participation and productivity in the workforce by revamping their workplace culture to be more inclusive and flexible. This includes offering part-time work options and redesigning onboarding programs for smoother reintroductions for mothers returning to work.

Business owners and leaders can also address the challenges facing working mothers by using their influence in local communities to mitigate barriers for working mothers by:

  • supporting initiatives to improve child care accessibility
  • promoting pay equity and livable wages
  • offering learning opportunities to help mothers maintain their knowledge, skills, and abilities to remain competitive in the job market

This detailed examination of motherhood experiences in Idaho offers insights for addressing similar issues nationwide such as labor force participation, child care accessibility and population growth. It also serves as a starting point for further research into how women’s work and life experiences vary across states.

Ensure your employees have the support they need to thrive.


Ellyn Maese, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Consultant at Gallup.

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