Everyone More Miserable as Fathers Pitch in Around House

The typical American father spends more than twice as much time doing housework as his dad did in 1965 and logs almost three times more hours on child care. Because of difficult economic times, he works five fewer hours every week than his father did.

Mothers are enjoying no picnic either. They spend 14 hours a week on child care, twice as much as dads, according to a study released today by Pew Research Center. Moms are devoting an average of 21 hours at work, compared with the eight hours their mothers spent. They spend 18 hours on weekly household chores, down from 32 hours in 1965 while still almost double the 10 hours run up by dads.

This modern parenthood is a recipe for stress, Pew says. Only 16 percent of U.S. adults agree that having a full-time working mother is a good thing. Less than half of working parents say they have a good work-life balance. One-third of parents don’t think they spend enough time with their kids.

“Things are better now but not completely balanced,” Kim Parker, the study’s co-author, said in a telephone interview. “Moms are carrying a heavy load. It makes for a busy week.”

Fifty-six percent of working mothers and half of dads with jobs surveyed said juggling their home and family lives is difficult. Forty percent of employed moms and 34 percent of fathers with jobs reported “always” feeling rushed.

Self Confidence

One of the few bright spots in the report: Working parents aren’t short of self-esteem. Seventy-three percent of mothers and 64 percent of fathers said they’re doing a good job with their children. Working moms were more likely to feel good about their parenting skills, with 78 percent thinking they do a “very good” or “excellent” job of raising their kids. Two-thirds of mothers without jobs felt the same way.

While only 37 percent of working mothers described a full-time job as an ideal situation, that number was up from 21 percent who felt that way in 2007, before the recession hit. Fifty percent would like to work part-time, and 11 percent said they’d prefer not working at all, according to the report, which mixed data from the U.S. government’s American Time Use Survey and a poll of 2,511 U.S. adults taken between Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, 2012.

Three-quarters of fathers said they like having full-time jobs. Only 15 percent said they’d rather work part-time, and 10 percent reported they’d rather retire.

In the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, both men and women said they value job security more than any other work-related attribute. Eighty percent of fathers and 78 percent of mothers ranked job security as their No. 1 priority.

Flex Schedules

Women were slightly more likely than men to value an enjoyable job, with 74 percent of mothers and 69 percent of dads calling the issue “extremely important.” Only 30 percent of working moms and 40 percent of fathers with jobs said pay is their top concern.

Flexible scheduling was the biggest work-life difference between sexes. Seventy percent of mothers and 48 percent of dads said being able to change their schedule is a key ingredient in occupational happiness.

The report found 49 percent of parents said they’re spending more time with their children than their parents spent with them. One-third said they spend about the same amount of time with kids. Seventeen percent said their children are receiving less attention than they did.

Even with the extra household chores and child care, fathers reported spending almost 28 hours every week on leisure activities. Moms were slightly less relaxed, taking only 25 hours. Sixty-three percent of American adults believe they have plenty of free time, the Pew study said. Only 44 percent of working parents agreed.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of the Bellevue, Washington-based MomsRising.org family advocacy organization, said fathers are getting better at helping out with house cleaning and child rearing. While taking her child to a recent pediatrician’s appointment, she said, she noticed being outnumbered 3-to-1 by fathers.

“The pediatrician’s office? That’s the front lines,” she said. “I’m taking that as a great sign.”

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