Study: Moms more tired than dads but still like caring for kids
Despite strides toward gender equality, women still shoulder more work at home and feel more fatigued by their daily grind, a new analysis from the Pew Research Center shows.
Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post
LOS ANGELES — Can American women finally “have it all”? Maybe. But they’d like to have a nap, too.
Despite strides toward gender equality, women still shoulder more work at home and feel more fatigued by their daily grind, a new analysis from the Pew Research Center shows. Whether at work or at home — and even at leisure — mothers said they felt more exhausted than fathers, Pew found.
The new study is based on data from the American Time Use Survey, sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earlier rounds of the survey yielded estimates on how Americans spent their time, but the 2010 survey was the first to ask whether people felt tired, happy or stressed during different activities.
Dads devote much more time to caring for children and keeping up the house than they used to, but they still lag far behind moms, who spend almost twice as many hours on those tasks weekly, Pew found. Fathers still spend more time working for pay, on average, than mothers do.
Pew also found that when dads pitch in at home, they don’t always do the same work that moms do. On average, moms spent much more time cooking and cleaning, while dads chipped in a few more hours doing household repairs and maintenance, such as mowing the lawn.
In addition, “Dads spend almost the same amount of time as mom in terms of playing with kids, but they do less in other areas of child care,” said Wendy Wang, a research associate at the Pew Research Center.
For instance, mothers logged much more time doing “physical care,” such as changing diapers or tending to sick kids. That could be why dads find child care less tiring than moms do: Fifteen percent of mothers said they felt “very tired” doing child care, compared with 6 percent of fathers, the survey showed.
For Rosie Arroyo-Carmona, the schedule begins at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t end until 11:30 p.m. or midnight, she said. She and her husband both work in the nonprofit sector, juggling their jobs with caring for their baby daughter. Every week they plan their schedules and divide up who will handle what task.
Because her husband travels more than she does, Arroyo-Carmona said she often takes charge of feeding and bathing the baby. After the baby falls asleep, she works a “second shift” for another few hours.
When a rare bit of free time arises, “I think that I could get something done — or I could get some rest,” Arroyo-Carmona said. Instead of resting, “I always choose to check something off my list.”
Despite their exhaustion, moms were more likely than dads to say they felt happy while caring for their kids. Both moms and dads said child care was much more meaningful for them than other work, with 62 percent of parents calling child care “very meaningful,” versus 36 percent who said the same about paid work.
Women, however, were more likely than men to find housework meaningful, with 46 percent calling it “very meaningful,” compared with 28 percent of men. Scholars who study families said that despite seismic changes in family life, mothers still seem to feel their identity is more bound up with the home than fathers do, producing both more pride and more anxiety.
“We are socialized as women to take care of the home,” said Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, an adjunct professor of anthropology at UCLA. “We are still supposed to be the perfect mom and have a beautiful house.”
Wang said the sample sizes were too small to compare the feelings of working parents to stay-at-home parents, but that the gender gaps between moms and dads were still there when researchers took employment into consideration.
The 2010 survey included more than 4,800 parents with children under the age of 18.
Other studies have found that mothers’ sleep is more interrupted than fathers’ and that mothers feel more rushed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that women between the ages of 18 and 44 are nearly twice as likely as men to say they feel very tired or exhausted all the time. And time-use research shows that mothers’ time, like Georgetown University associate professor Manning’s, tends to be more fragmented through the day as they switch from their roles as mother to worker to housekeeper and back again.
Those exhausting “little sprints” of role switching, said Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute, are due largely to the fact that women are still considered primarily responsible for home and family, as they have been for millennia.
And fathers, she said, are still expected to work long hours to “provide” for their families in ways that women are not.
Galinsky and other researchers have also found that, as younger fathers seek to be more involved at home and run up against rigid workplace expectations, they are beginning to feel conflicted, and it appears more harried than mothers.
Studies have found that while workplaces have become accustomed to mothers working part-time or flexible hours on the “mommy track,” men who try to do the same are often penalized and seen as “wimps and wet washcloths,” Galinsky said.