Gen Z Moms: Redefining Motherhood in SA

by | May 22, 2024

Being African, our challenges and experiences of motherhood, family, and life in general are very different from those of Western nations. However, with access to global markets through social media, the striking similarities between what young mothers are experiencing across the globe are evident. South Africa’s young mothers face unique challenges, and their outlooks and expectations are evolving. While the data used in this article comes from a global study courtesy of motherly.com, trends suggest similar experiences for young South African moms. Here’s a closer look at these changing dynamics concerning motherhood:

Shifting Priorities and Family Planning:

There’s a global trend towards smaller families, with 69% of young moms (under 30) opting for one child in the provided data. Financial constraints likely play a role in South Africa, mirroring a 2021 Women’s Research & Education Institute (WRSA) report highlighting childcare costs as a significant barrier for working mothers. South African moms might also be factoring in the high cost of living. Looking at the marginalised communities in South Africa, Ingrid Ornaheim highlights The “family crisis” (In South Africa) is linked to the complex realities of families in impoverished communities suffering from unemployment and the pandemic of HIV and AIDS.” Furthermore, since 2008, South Africa’s population growth rate has still exceeded the economic growth rate. As highlighted by IPSOS.com, Africa still has a burgeoning birth rate.

Work-Life Balance and Childcare:

Balancing work and childcare is a significant struggle. The global data shows two-thirds of moms, especially Gen Z (82%), consider leaving the workforce due to childcare stress and costs. South Africa likely faces similar challenges with limited and expensive childcare options. The WRSA report emphasises this concern, highlighting the lack of quality and affordable childcare, especially in rural areas. This forces mothers to rely on informal arrangements. These informal arrangements, especially in underprivileged communities, especially where there is no compensation, contract or formal childcare knowledge, may not be the safest option. However, what choice do these mothers have? Insights from News24 and the Gen Z and Millenial Survey by Deloitte note that “50% of Gen Zs and 47% of millennials expect starting a family to become harder or impossible.”

Workplace Flexibility and Parental Leave:

The relative lack of workplace flexibility in South Africa further complicates work-life balance for young mothers. Many companies, particularly in the private sector, don’t offer options like remote work or part-time schedules. While South Africa offers 18 weeks of maternity leave, which exceeds the global minimum, many mothers feel it’s insufficient for recovery and bonding with their newborns. Additionally, the current policy only provides partial income replacement, making it financially challenging for some mothers to take an entire leave duration. Take this one step further in a South African context: flexibility is non-existent because so many mothers from rural or township communities don’t have the option for maternity leave (because they need to work to earn money). 

Financial Pressures and Support Systems:

Global data suggests that many young moms rely on financial support from their parents (49% of them are under 30). South Africa’s economic situation might exacerbate this reliance. With a rising cost of living, fewer young moms feel financially on track compared to previous years. While South African communities also have a strong sense of the entire family living with one another, researchgate.com highlights that there has been an increase in grandparent-headed households.

Shifting Dynamics and Self-Care:

Despite the challenges, there are some positive trends. Gen Z moms are reportedly more likely to seek therapy (70%) and prioritise self-care (53% getting at least an hour daily) than older moms. This suggests a growing focus on mental health and well-being among young South African mothers as well. Additionally, Gen Z moms report having more equitable partnerships with partners regarding household responsibilities (nearly 60%) compared to older moms (35%). 

Policy and Advocacy:

The provided data shows a potential difference in policy priorities between generations. While older moms overwhelmingly support policies like paid leave and childcare, Gen Z moms may have different focuses. The global report stipulates Gen Z moms might prioritise policies addressing the country’s specific challenges, such as increased access to affordable childcare or improved early childhood development programs.

Young South African mothers are navigating a complex landscape. While facing financial strain, limited childcare options, and a lack of workplace flexibility, they also demonstrate a growing focus on self-care and shared responsibility within their families. Understanding their evolving needs and priorities is crucial for policymakers and businesses alike. 

Studies like this are crucial. Implementing policies that support working mothers, such as increased access to affordable childcare and improved or, at the very least, subsidised parental leave options, can empower young South African moms to thrive both at home and in the workplace.

References:

  • WRSA (Women’s Research & Education Institute). (2021). Retrieved from [WRSA website ON Women’s Research and Education Institute wresa.co.za].
  • https://www.ipsos.com/en/western-generational-concepts-dont-apply-south-africa
  • https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14330237.2021.1952730
  • https://www.news24.com/news24/tech-and-trends/the-shared-anxieties-of-gen-zs-and-millennials-right-now-20230522