Chandra Manning’s day is fragmented as she shifts from taking care of kids, to working, to doing stuff around the house and back again, while her husband works in long, uninterrupted blocks of time.
Molly Cowan is in charge of kids and home, in addition to her full-time job — not because her husband doesn’t want to be, but because her full-time work is flexible and his isn’t.
And though Cathleen Pencek’s husband is an involved dad and shares chores around the house, she’s the one who does all the planning, organizing, buying of kids’ clothes, cleaning closets, and arranging school, child care, play dates and doctor visits. Pencek keeps a long list in her head of everything that needs to get done.
“It’s just that list. It’s constant. Does my kid have a winter coat? What am I going to fix for dinner? What are we going to do with the kids this weekend? Is our 4-year-old ready for kindergarten? Check. Check. Check,” Pencek said, as she put in the first of four loads of laundry while juggling her home-based job as a corporate recruiter. “And that’s in addition to work.”
Ever since the federal government began collecting detailed surveys a decade ago of how Americans spend their time, the American Time Use Survey reports have shown that mothers, even those who work full time, spend about twice as much time as fathers taking care of kids and cleaning up around the house, while fathers spend more time at work and in leisure. Now, for the first time, the survey is asking parents how they feel about that.
Mothers, they found, feel exhausted.
In a report released Tuesday morning analyzing the survey’s well-being data, the Pew Research Center found that mothers, on average, feel more wiped out than fathers in all four major categories of life: work, housework, child care and leisure.
That’s not all: Mothers are also happier than fathers while working, caring for children and during leisure activities. And nearly twice as many mothers as fathers say they’re even “very happy” doing housework.
Mothers find paid work more meaningful and more stressful than fathers, the Pew Research report found. And far more mothers think housework is meaningful, while more fathers are stressed out by it.
High percentages of mothers and fathers report that caring for children is the most meaningful way they spend their time. But more than twice as many mothers say they feel flattened while doing it.
“Time doing child care is where we found the biggest gap between fathers and mothers feeling exhausted,” said report author Wendy Wang. “And when you look at what mothers and fathers are actually doing, it shows why: Mothers spend much more time than fathers doing physical care — feeding the baby, giving baths. They do more managerial and educational care, all of which requires a lot of energy. Only when it comes to playing with kids do fathers do almost the same amount as mothers.”
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.