Over the years, there’s been a lot of discourse regarding who becomes the default parent in heterosexual relationships. (Spoiler alert: it’s almost always mom.) Now, we may have proof that moms are carrying an extra load regarding childcare. This is thanks to a recent scientific experiment that tested where moms and dads rank when schools call home. The results clearly show how much invisible labor moms do for their families.
The Research Appeared in a New Economics Paper
Three women worked on the study and published a paper titled “Who You Gonna Call? Gender Inequality in External Demands For Parental Involvement.” They found that schools prefer to contact moms when given the contact information for both a male and female parent.1
The researchers conducted the study by sending over 30,000 emails to school principals. These emails asked them for enrollment information for a hypothetical student. The researchers — Kristy Buzard, Laura Gee, and Olga Stoddard — conducted their experiment in three different ways.1
In the first round of emails, they provided contact info for both mom and dad and asked the school to call one of the parents to review the enrollment information.1
The Principals Rarely Called
Interestingly enough, principals almost always ignored the phone call request. But the moms often got the call when there was an attempt to connect. A whopping 59 percent of the time, principals chose to call mom when given the option between a male and female parent. (It’s worth noting that the limited information collected on same-sex families saw a more even distribution of phone calls made to both parents.)1
Researchers Tested What Would Happen When They Hinted That Dad Was a Better Contact
The researchers sent another round of emails giving both parents’ information but saying dad had “a lot of availability” while mom didn’t. While principals opted to call the male parent a bit more often in this case (74 percent of the time), there was still a shocking 26 percent of the calls going to the mom’s number.1 This proves that even when schools know dad is the preferred contact person, they still feel compelled to get mom on the phone.
A Third Round of Emails Sent the Message Home
Researchers conducted another version of the experiment where they wrote that mom was the best person to speak to. After this batch of emails, the researchers found that principals called mom 90 percent of the time.1
The researchers believe this shows clear gender bias since only 74 percent of phone calls went to the dad when he was listed as the preferred contact, while 90 percent went to the mom when her info was pushed to the top of the list.1
Moms are Working Just as Much as Dads
Of course, we all know there was a time when most child care was left to moms, as dads typically worked while moms stayed home to tend to the house and kids. However, those days have long passed. According to The Bureau Of Labor Statistics, stay-at-home moms have declined since 1967, when 49 percent of moms opted out of the workforce to be at home with their kids.2
“That proportion steadily dropped through the decades until 1999, when only 23 percent of moms stayed at home,” the website explains. “Since 1999, the percentage of mothers who stayed at home began to increase again, rising by 6 points to 29 percent in 2012.” 2
So why do principals default to mom when they need to call home? According to a Pew Research poll, moms still do most caregiving at home, even when they work.3
Can Anything Be Done?
If you’re a mom tired of being the default parent, you can try talking to the school at the start of the year about who should receive calls about your children.
While that may not make a difference (remember, 26 percent of moms still got a call even when they said that dad would be the best person to talk to), it should start a conversation about why we assume moms are always the ones who handle anything related to their kids.1
If nothing else, it will help your children see that their parents are equally capable of handling their care.