Kindness – What mothers want (and dads need to know)

A new survey of 291 mothers reveals that most mothers still tend to take responsibility for the majority of the childcare and domestic chores. More than half of these consider this a fair arrangement and less than half think it unfair.

Only a small minority – less than 10 per cent – consider it very unfair. Even among those who consider it unfair, the vast majority of mothers are happy with their relationship.

What mums want most from their husband or partner is kindness, friendship, and somebody interested in them and their children.

Out of 29 roles, qualities and characteristics, ‘being a friend’ was rated as most important of all at 9.5 out of 10, top choice for 79 per cent of mums. Of 16 qualities, ‘kindness’ was rated top at nine out of 10. In contrast, ‘fixing things’ and ‘earning a decent salary’ were rated least important at less than six (5.9) out of ten, top choice for just 5 per cent of mums.

Happy and unhappy mums want dads to prioritise the same things: children, mum, himself and work in that order. The difference is that happy mums have a husband or partner who focuses a little more on mum, her work and time, and the children, and a little less on himself.

Harry Benson, Research Director of Marriage Foundation and co-author of What Mums Want and What Dads Need To Know, commented:

“Almost any relationship thrives where there is kindness. Kindness is everything. It shows thought, consideration, care. It shows you notice and you value. Being kind is an active decision that requires some sort of action. It only takes little things.

“But those little things reveal the character behind them. When somebody is kind, it’s hugely attractive. No wonder mums rate this as the number one quality they want from their husband or partner. If we men could grasp that what mums want most is friendship, interest and kindness, we’d have a lot less heartache and family breakdown, much of which is completely avoidable.

“I only wish I’d known this thirty years ago when I married Kate. We would have had a lot less bumpy ride! Still, better late than never.”

Co-author Kate Benson commented:

“When my husband is interested in me, and is kind and generous to me, every part of me lights up, I feel happier and more enthusiastic about everything. I feel more loving and physically more attracted to him. I have more energy. I’m more interested in him.

“When my husband neglects me, I can put up with it for a bit. But it slowly weighs me down, like a wet blanket. I feel cold and resentful. I don’t even like the person that I love.

“At these times, I tend to go into micro-manage mode. The neglected wife talks about the bins, the children, the dishwasher, the bills, the mowing, the broken handle, the problem with the car, and the shopping.”

“When Harry is kind and attentive, when he’s interested and helpful, it’s wonderful.”

Co-authors of What Mums Want and What Dads Need To Know Harry Benson and Kate Benson compiled their recommended top ten acts of kindness for Mother’s Day:

1. Breakfast in bed

2. Give mum a day off

3. Write a card or letter to tell mum how much dad and children appreciate her

4. Arrange a visit to friends, or friends to visit

5. Dad and children cook a meal

6. Dad and children tidy up

7. Get children to make a card or cake

8. Book a date night some time during the next week, or at least take mum out for a coffee or meal

9. Take mum out for walk

10. Get children to choose flowers

The survey of 291 mothers also revealed the following findings:

  • Overwhelmingly, mums want a friend, a husband or partner who is primarily family-oriented, who prioritises mum, the children and home life, and who is kind.
  • Mums still value the roles of provider and protector. But earning a decent salary and fixing things come way down the list of priorities.
  • Kindness, forgiveness, encouragement, and appreciation are valued well above the physical attributes of strength, sexiness, and a spirit of adventure.
  • In terms of what mums want dads to prioritise, there are no significant differences between mums who are happy and unhappy with their relationship now.
  • Where mums do differ is that happy mums tend to have husbands or partners who focus a bit more on mum, mum’s work, mum’s time, and the children, and a bit less on themselves, compared to the husbands.
  • Looking back on their relationship transitions, most mums considered that moving in together and getting married helped their relationship.
  • However having children was more of a mixed blessing, with half saying it made their relationship better and one quarter saying it made things worse. Among those who were not happy now, more than half said it made things worse.
  • Finally, although the ‘for better’ phase of relationship is almost universal for all mums at some point, the ‘for worse’ phase is also remarkably commonplace. Half of mums who are now happy reported that they had been unhappy at some point.


Here you can download the Research Briefing Paper as a PDF and the Press Release where it is available.

Media Links

ITV This Morning

BBC Radio 2 Steve Wright show


BBC Point West

Sign up for updates