Poll: Work, Worry and Accomplishment Define Mothering

Overindulgence is more of an issue -- 53 percent of moms (particularly working moms) say they do more than their mothers did in terms of spoiling or overindulging their kids. Fewer, though, have moved the bar on discipline: A fifth of today's moms say they go easier on discipline than their own mothers did, but the vast majority -- 78 percent -- say they apply the same level of discipline or more.

The Terrible Teens

For all the effort, a key factor in getting along with the kids is something no one can control: their age. Teens are tough: Among moms with only preteen kids, 76 percent report an excellent relationship with their children. Among those with teenagers, though, far fewer -- 57 percent -- say the relationship is an excellent one.

Maintaining discipline is one issue with teens. Mothers of infants and toddlers are most apt to be more strict than their parents were -- 33 percent say so. But that drops off as the kids age, and by the time they hit their teens it's fallen by half, to 16 percent.

Similarly, mothers of teenagers are the most likely to say being a mom now is harder than it was when they were kids. But some of them, of course, could just be forgetting their own teen years.

The Terrific Toddlers

If teens occupy the more difficult side of the child-raising spectrum, infants and toddlers represent more pure fun. Mothers with kids age 5 and under are much more apt than moms with older children to rate their relationship with their kids as excellent, and much less likely to say being a mom is harder today than it was when they were growing up.

Among moms -- all of whose kids are 5 or under -- 84 percent say the relationship is excellent; among those whose kids are all 6 or older, it's a much lower 64 percent (as noted, bottoming out at 57 percent among those with teens). And while 58 percent of moms with little ones say it's harder now to be a mother, that compares with 76 percent of moms whose kids are all older than 6 (peaking at 81 percent of moms with teens).

Mother Knows Best?

Although most of today's moms see themselves as closer with their kids -- more involved in their lives and more apt to have an excellent relationship -- many hesitate to claim superior skills to their own mothers'. Plenty do -- 40 percent say they're doing a better job raising their kids than their mothers did. But many more, 57 percent, say they're performing about the same. (Hardly any say they're doing a worse job.)

Child-rearing styles inform this view. Among moms who are more strict than their mothers were, 59 percent say they're doing a better child-rearing job overall. And among those who say they're more involved in their kids' lives, similarly, 56 percent say they're doing better overall.

Compared to Your Mother …
  Harder Same Easier
Being a mother today is … 72% 22% 4%

Compared to Your Mother …
  Better Same Worse
Job you're doing as a mom is … 40% 57% 2%

This judgment also is one place where work plays a role. At-home mothers are more apt to say they're doing a better job than their own mothers did; 47 percent say so, slipping to 34 percent of all working moms, and 29 percent of career-track moms. (It's worth noting that work for moms is nothing new: While 61 percent work for pay, as many, 59 percent, say their own mothers worked outside the home when they were growing up.)

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