Moms Columns & Blogs

Study: Mothers still working more than fathers

Written by Rose Lichtenfels
The Hartford Courant

The only job harder than being a parent could be that of a female parent.

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis of federal data, mothers report feeling more exhausted than fathers in categories of paid work, housework and child care. The study finds that mothers are spending more hours weekly than their husbands on a combination of responsibilities at home, with children, and in the work place.

"Time spent doing child care revealed the largest gap between fathers and mothers and feelings of exhaustion," said report author Wendy Wang, a research associate at Pew. "Roles are changing but women are still shouldering the majority of housework and childcare -- that is a fact."

Critical gender differences in the household shape these overall patterns of exhaustion and fulfillment. While mothers and fathers are equally likely to find meaning in the time spent with their children, mothers are still spending almost twice as much time caring for children and tending to household responsibilities than fathers. According to the Pew researchers, mothers spend an average of 31 hours a week tending to child care and housework while fathers report spending 17.3 hours

These findings come from the American Time Use Survey, which was created by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey aims to provide nationally representative data on how Americans spend time. The American Time Use Survey included questions designed to measure a respondent's emotional state during various activities, including work and childcare.

Wang argues that the different feelings mothers and fathers have regarding the way they spend their time may be directly correlated to the specific activities they take on at work and at home. While both parents spend similar amounts of time engaging with their children recreationally, mothers spend nearly twice as much time as fathers during the week helping children with reading and homework, as well as managerial tasks.

According to Pew, parents rate 12 percent of child-care activities "very tiring" compared with 5 percent of paid work. Parents with children under age 18 also find 62 percent of child-care experiences "very meaningful," compared with only 36 percent of paid work.

"This should not come as news to parents -- but this study provides data that can certainly now confirm how every parent feels," said Wang.

While men spend more time than women tending to repairs around the household, an average of 4 to 1 hours weekly, mothers are spending a combined 10 more hours per week than fathers cooking and cleaning.

However, across every category, on average mothers find more meaning than fathers in their work at home and in the office. Mothers report feeling more fulfilled than fathers in child care, leisure, and housework.

Although there's nothing very relaxing about changing diapers in public restrooms or tending to a bloody knee on the playground, parents said they were "not stressed ad all" in 52 percent of child-care activities, compared with 20 percent of paid work and 37 percent of household work. Mothers also reported feeling slightly more fulfilled than fathers performing activities related to child care.

The biggest difference in gender and time use pattern proved to be the physical care category: mothers spend 5.2 hours per week tending to children's physical needs, about 2.6 times as much as what fathers spend on these activities (two hours per week). Physical care includes activities such as changing diapers, feeding and dressing children, as well as care related to children's health.

(c)2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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