Poll: Work, Worry and Accomplishment Define Mothering

Motherhood is no easy job: Six in 10 moms worry about it. Half sometimes feel guilty that they're not better at it. Most say they're good but not great at it. Seven in 10 say it's harder now than it was a generation ago.

And then the kids hit their teens, and things get really tough.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

And oh, for a little more time: Six in 10 moms with kids under 18 hold down paying jobs, yet traditional social norms persist -- 85 percent still also maintain primary child-care responsibilities in the family. Make that two jobs, then.

Yet there's joy in mothering and deep rewards: Seven in 10 mothers in an ABC News "Good Morning America"/Good Housekeeping poll report an excellent relationship with their children, twice as many as got along that well with their own mothers when they were growing up. Compared with their mothers, most moms today say they're more involved in their kids' lives. And while overindulgence is up, most moms by far also say they're maintaining at least as much discipline as their own mothers did.

Moms' Relationships
  Excellent Good
With their kids today   69%   31%
With their moms when growing up   35%   46%
With their moms now   51%   42%

Another result undermines the myth that working moms have more guilt; instead the survey finds that working mothers -- even those on a career track -- are no more apt than at-home moms to feel guilty about not always being a good enough mother. They're also as confident of their child-rearing skills, and get along with their kids as well.

Lack of time with the kids is far and away the greatest cause of parental guilt among working moms. At-home mothers are more apt to cite other causes, such as discipline problems or a lack of money.

Mothers' Laments
   
Mothering skills   39% Excellent, 60% Good
Worry about mothering   62% Worry, 38% Don't Worry
Feelings of guilt   52% Some Guilt, 49% No Guilt

Relationships

One fundamental finding of this national, random-sample survey is that strong relationships carry on across generations. Women who grew up with a strong relationship with their mothers are far more likely to have the same kind of relationship with their kids, indeed it's the strongest single factor in predicting such relationships.

The numbers are striking: Among women who say they had an excellent relationship with their mothers, 91 percent now report an excellent relationship with their own children. In contrast, women whose childhood relationship with their mothers was "good" rather than excellent are 35 points less likely to have the strongest relationship with their kids. It's by no means the sole component of successful mothering -- but there is a clear connection between strong intergenerational mother-child relationships.

Hard Work and Mommy Guilt

All told, 72 percent of mothers think raising kids is harder today than it was when they were children. And it brings agitation: 62 percent sometimes worry about not being as good a mother as they'd like to be, especially younger and less-confident moms, and those with more kids.

Worry extends to guilt for about half of mothers, 52 percent. A strong factor here is the number of kids, presumably because of the divided attention they require. Among mothers with one child, 44 percent sometimes feel guilty about their shortcomings as a mom. Among those with two kids, it's 52 percent; three or more children, 63 percent.

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