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Working moms taking less maternity leave, CareerBuilder’s annual Mother’s Day survey finds

The struggle to balance career and family starts in the earliest stages of parenthood, according to CareerBuilder’s annual study of working moms. One-in-four (26 percent) working moms who have had a child in the last three years reported they did not take the full maternity leave allowed by their company. One-in-ten took two weeks or less. The national survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive© from February 9 to March 2, 2012, included 601 working mothers and 729 working fathers with children 18 and under who are living with them.

How much maternity leave are workers taking? Competitive work environments and demanding positions may be causing more women to reduce their time off from work after delivery. While most working moms who’ve had a child in the last three years (44 percent) reported taking more than eight weeks of maternity leave, 12 percent said they took two weeks or less. Forty percent were off work for six weeks or less.

How much are working moms earnings compared to working dads? Financial pressures are also playing a key role in how moms are managing time at work. Thirty-nine percent of working moms and 43 percent of working dads surveyed by CareerBuilder reported that they are the sole financial provider in their household. Working dads who are the sole breadwinner were almost twice as likely to earn $50,000 or more and were approximately three times as likely to earn six figures as working moms. Women were much more likely to earn less than $35,000 compared to men.

Earning less than $35,000:

  • Working moms — 40 percent
  • Working dads — 21 percent

Earning $50,000 or more:

  • Working moms — 33 percent
  • Working dads — 59 percent

Earning $100,000 or more:

  • Working moms — 6 percent
  • Working dads — 17 percent

How much time do working moms get to spend with their families? Women continue to feel the tug of war between the office and home, wishing for more time to balance both. One-in-four (25 percent) working moms feel they have to choose between their children and being successful at their jobs. Twenty-four percent reported they have missed three or more significant events in their children’s lives in the last year due to work obligations.

When asked how much time they’re able to spend with their children during the work week, half of working moms said they average around four hours of quality time each day. However, nearly three-in-ten reported they get to spend two hours or less with their children each day. According to the survey:

  • Two hours or less per day — 22 percent
  • One hour or less per day — 6 percent
  • Four hours or more – 51 percent

“As more moms assume the sole or primary breadwinner role in their households, they’re feeling increasingly torn between providing financial security for their families and having quality time at home,” said Hope Gurion, Chief Development Officer at CareerBuilder, and mother of two. “The pay disparity between working moms and dads has improved over the years, but is still significant. More working moms are seeking out second jobs to supplement incomes and flexible work arrangements to afford more family time.”

What can working moms do to find a better work/life balance?

Go in with a game plan. The vast majority of working moms who have taken advantage of flexible work arrangements said it hasn’t negatively impacted their careers, so talk to your supervisor or HR department and explore options. Make sure to come to that conversation with a game plan on how you can manage workload, cover responsibilities, etc.

Keep an “I’m Fabulous” file. Keep track of all of your accomplishments within the organization, quantifying results whenever possible, and list out the additional responsibilities you have taken on in the last year. It helps you to build your case when negotiating for a better salary or consideration for promotion with your employer.

Get organized. Structure in your life will save you time, stress, and mental energy. Keep one calendar for business and family commitments to avoid double-booking. Set up a schedule for chores, homework, family activities, and playtime.

Remember quality over quantity. Make the most of your personal time. When you’re home, it’s all about them. Wait until after the children go to bed before checking email or finishing up that presentation.

Schedule “me time.” Working moms need to take care of themselves too. Put actual time on the calendar for an hour or more of doing something you enjoy such as going to the gym, taking a walk, reading, etc.

Source: CareerBuilder.com.