Time and Life

by Wendy Wang

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On weekends, dads find more time for leisure than moms

My latest contribution to the Pew Research Center’s blog- Fact tank.

It’s well documented that mothers do more child care and housework than fathers. But what about on the weekend, when both parents theoretically have more time for leisure?

Our new analysis of time use data shows a striking change of pace for moms and dads on Saturday and Sunday. Mothers take a little break from child care (but not housework) on the weekend. Fathers pick up more housework, and the amount of time they devote to child care is a lot closer to mothers’ on the weekend.

But when it comes to leisure, fathers take full advantage of the weekends. The “leisure gap” between fathers and mothers, which is quite modest on the weekdays, grows to a one hour difference on Saturdays and Sundays.

On average, dads spend half the amount of time on child care that mothers do. But this is true only during the week. With moms scaling back their time for child care, fathers’ child-care time is about three quarters that of mothers’ (73%) on the weekends. On weekends, fathers step it up with housework, doing nearly an hour more than they do during the week. While fathers spend less than half as much time as mothers (46%) on the weekdays doing housework, they spend 71% the amount of time of mothers on the weekends.

Overall, on the weekends, mothers scale back their time spent on child care by 29%, compared with the amount of time spent during a week day (1.5 hours per day vs. 2.1 hours). This is consistent with earlier research by Sayer, Bianchi, and Robinson.

recent Pew Research Center report found that stay-at-home mothers spend more time on child care and housework than working mothers. But the gap in child care is much narrower on the weekends than during the week, and working moms spend almost the same amount of time on housework as stay-at-home moms do on the weekends.

Working moms tend to use the weekend to clean up the house: They increase their time spent on this activity by about one hour during the weekends. At the same time, stay-at-home moms take a little break from household chores on weekends. And all mothers, whether working outside the home or not, have more time for leisure activities during weekends.


Remembering Suzanne Bianchi

Suzanne M. Bianchi

Suzanne M. Bianchi

Suzanne M. Bianchi, my mentor in graduate school, passed away on Nov.4. She was only 61, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July, and left us only after a few months. Suzanne was one of the healthiest people I’ve ever known, her passing was sudden.

Suzanne was a distinguished scholar and a remarkable person. Her contribution to the field of time use and family demography has been far-reaching. NY Times, Washington Post, LA times, and many other news outlets have published nice tributes about her. Her online journal through caring bridge (run by her daughter Jen) has received more than 20,000 visits.

Suzanne has always been my role model. In addition to her successful career, she had a happy marriage and raised three children successfully. Family has always been her inspiration for research. She devoted her professional career to studying balancing work and family and gender equality. She set an example herself that “having it all” was possible.

UCLA Campus, Summer 2012

UCLA Campus, Summer 2012

Last July, I had a chance to visit Suzanne at the UCLA campus (she left Maryland and joined UCLA in 2009). This was the last time I saw her in person. It was a beautiful day. Suzanne showed me around the campus and took me to lunch at the faculty club. She felt like an old friend. She was excited about her new book and her new condo near the Santa Monica beach. We chatted about the changing demographic trends and how our own lives were affected. I said, “Suzanne, I think you have a perfect life.” “You know what? I actually agree with you” said Suzanne, with a smile on her face. It was a great moment.

Both being demographers, we know how American families have changed over time, and how challenging it is for a woman to balance work and family and to “have it all.” If there is anything I feel good about, it is the fact that Suzanne has achieved all, she has no regrets.

I am privileged to have Suzanne as my mentor during my six years of graduate school at the University of Maryland. Despite all the titles and awards she achieved, Suzanne was a very modest person. She treated everyone with respect, whether it was a first year student or a well-known scholar in the field.

Population Association of America conference 2011

Population Association of America conference 2011

Suzanne was a very supportive mentor. Her calmness and her kindness always comforted me. Being an international student, I was sometimes conscious about my English. Suzanne never made me feel that I was somehow different from other students. But Suzanne also understood International students’ challenges. I remember one spring, a Chinese girl in the department died (it was a tragedy). At the time many of us were at a conference, and we were shocked by the news. Suzanne saw me from a distance; she came up and gave me a big hug, asked: “Are you OK?” Simple words like this touched me. After all, it was not easy to leave family, travel thousands of miles and study in a foreign country.

Suzanne could be very tough as well. Honestly, my feelings for her were mostly fear during my time at Maryland. She had high standards and she demanded her students to do best work. My dissertation on father involvement was a tough project. It took me two years to finish. Suzanne asked me to test many different hypotheses and kept pushing me to do more and more. There was a time I felt like giving up (Glad I didn’t). I think she saw something there that was worth pursuing and she pushed. To this day, I still use her phrases on a daily base: “Past success predicts future” and “Deadline is the best strategy to get things done.”

Suzanne was very generous and she loved her students. Every time she traveled abroad, she brought back gifts for each of us. She took us out for lunch before the holidays and she gathered all of her students and bought us dinner at conferences. When her book “Changing Rhythms of American family life” was published, the publisher gave her some gift cards. She gave all the gifts cards to us, so that we each could buy $100 worth of books…

Graduation Ceremony, UMD, 2008

Graduation Ceremony, University of Maryland, 2008

While preparing this post, I found this card she gave me at my graduation ceremony in 2008:

“Dear Rong,
You did a fabulous dissertation, overcame health obstacles and were just an exemplary student. Now with an exciting job- you should be proud… as I am of you!
I look forward to being your colleague and hopefully collaborator- for a very long time. You make my job worth doing.
All the best,

Tears have blurred my eyes when I am reading this. I only have two publications with Suzanne so far. I had hoped to be a collaborator for a very long time. Suzanne had high remarks of the work that Pew Research Center does, and she visited Pew a couple of years ago with some great ideas of collaboration. It is so sad that she left too soon…

Suzanne, you once said that your biggest “award” was to see your students finishing up and getting their Ph.D.s. I am so honored to have contributed to that award. Thank you for being a wonderful mentor and friend, for all the support that you’ve given me. I will carry on your legacy and continue studying families. After all, family is the most important thing of all–we start and end with it.

Here are my favorite news articles that featured Suzanne’s research:

Time magazine, August 8, 2011 “Chore Wars” (Cover story) (http://bccwf.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/chore-wars/)

The New York times, October 17, 2006, “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds” (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/us/17kids.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

And some highlights of Suzanne work on gender, work and family issues:

Changing Rhythms of American Family Life (https://www.russellsage.org/publications/changing-rhythms-american-family-life)

Continuity and Change in the American Family (http://www.sagepub.com/textbooks/Book220814)

Balancing Act: Motherhood, Marriage, and Employment Among American Women (https://www.russellsage.org/publications/balancing-act )

American Women in Transition (https://www.russellsage.org/publications/american-women-transition)

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The “leisure gap” between mothers and fathers

In America, fathers, on average, have about three hours more leisure time per week than mothers. This “leisure gap” has been consistent at least over the past decade. What are dads doing with their extra time? For the most part, they’re watching TV, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the government-sponsored American Time Use Survey (ATUS).

leisure 1There is a large body of research devoted to studying leisure time. Some studies like those of time-use experts John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey, use a broader measure of “free time,” which is the time left over after subtracting all hours spent in paid work, housework, childcare, and personal care.  Other studies, such as one by Mark Aguiar and Erik Hurst in 2007, focus more narrowly on the time explicitly devoted to recreational activities or relaxation.

Using the narrower definition of leisure, our analysis of the 2010 ATUS data finds that fathers with children under age 18 in the household on average spend about three hours more leisure time than mothers (27.5 hours per week vs. 24.5 hours per week).

Most of the gap is found in front of the television set. Fathers spend 2.8 hours more each week than mothers watching TV or using other media. Fathers also spend more time playing sports or exercising than do mothers, while mothers spend more of their leisure time in social activities such as attending or hosting parties.

While there are gender differences in these different types of leisure activities, TV watching is a primary leisure activity for both parents. Fathers spend about 64% of their leisure time watching TV or using other media. For mothers, the share is 60%.

leisure 2The ATUS not only asks people how they spend their time but also how they feel while they’re engaged in particular activities. Our analysis of this data shows that mothers find their leisure time to be more meaningful than do fathers. Mothers rate 63% of their leisure activities “very meaningful,” while fathers give a similar rating to about 52% of their leisure activities. Meanwhile, mothers feel more exhausted than fathers during their leisure time, and their stress level associated with leisure time is higher as well.

The fact that mothers feel more stressed and tired than fathers even during their leisure may have to do with the way they experience their time. Mothers’ free time is often interrupted, which may make it hard for them to relax, according to a study by sociologist Suzanne Bianchi and others. Moreover, a study by Shira Offer and Barbara Schneider found that mothers tend to spend more time than fathers in multitasking, and the additional hours spent on multitasking are mainly related to time spent on housework and child care.

For more information on how the time use data is collected and the classification of leisure activities, see our report on modern parenthood and parents’ feelings about their time.

This post was originally published on Pew Research Center’s blog- Fact tank.

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How do single fathers balance work and family?

Single father1Single fathers are on the rise. Today, 8% of U.S. households with children under the age of 18 are headed by single fathers, up from 1% in 1960.

By definition, single fathers are not currently married and do not have a partner to help in raising their children in the household. In reality, single fathers often times are not “single”: about 41% of them live with an unmarried partner (the partner may or may not be mother of their children). If you are curious about the share for single mothers: about 16% of single mothers live with a cohabiting partner.

In this post I focus on the “real” single fathers who are not living with a partner and are the only parent in the household. I look at their time allocation at work and at home, and compare their time with that of married and cohabiting fathers, as well as that of single mothers. Most numbers are drawn from my analysis in an earlier report about modern parenthood.

Being mom and dad at the same time, one may think that single fathers carry a heavier workload than married fathers. However, the time diary data suggest that this is not the case.

Compared with fathers who are married or living with a partner, single fathers spend more time doing housework (averaging 10 hours per week), but less time in childcare (6 hours per week). Single fathers’ time in paid work is less than that of married fathers, but more than that of cohabiting fathers.

If we add up the time in all three types of work (paid work, childcare, and housework), single fathers’ total workload per week is about 50 hours, which is higher than that of cohabiting fathers (48 hours), but lower than that of married fathers (55 hours).

Compared with married fathers, single fathers are less likely to have a college education (35% vs. 15%), and their employment rate is lower as well (89% vs.78%). Single fathers tend to have somewhat older children than do married or cohabiting fathers, which may help to explain why single fathers’ childcare time is slightly less than that of fathers in other family types.

Single father2

Single fathers work as hard as single mothers, judging by their total workload. Each group spend an average of 50 hours per week in all work-related  activities including paid work, childcare and housework, although their time allocation is somewhat different. Single fathers spend longer time in paid work than do single mothers (34 hours vs. 24 hours per week), but their time in childcare is half of what single mothers engage in (6 hours vs. 12 hours per week), and their housework time is lower as well (10 hours vs. 14 hours per week).

Still, single fathers manage to have four more hours of  leisure time per week than do single mothers.

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When Daddy Stays at Home …

Stay-at-home fathers are more visible these days. Among U.S. fathers who are married or living with a partner, about 6% are homemakers, according to analyses in a recent Pew Research Center report I coauthored. Stay-at-home dads are much less common than stay-at-home mothers, who make up about 30% of mothers with a spouse or partner.

Stay-at-home dads are definitely the most involved dads. The amount of time they spent taking care of children and doing housework is the most of all fathers. They also do more at home than their partners who work for pay, which is an exception in two-parent families (see numbers in the table below). These findings are based on time diary data.


However, when paidwork, childcare and housework are combined, the workload of stay-at-home fathers is about 25 hours less than that of their partners who work for pay (33 hours vs. 58 hours per week). In contrast, their leisure time is 20 hours more than that of their partners. (Translation: They work less but play more than do their spouses/partners who are the sole breadwinner of the family.)

The workload of stay-at-home fathers is also significantly less than that of stay-at-home mothers. The gap is about 13 hours per week in terms of time spent taking care of kids, doing chores, and work-related activities. However, stay-at-home dads enjoy about 14 hours more leisure time per week than do stay-at-home moms (Translation: Stay-at-home moms work harder than stay-at-home dads?)

Let’s look at the numbers in another way: On a weekly basis, stay-at-home fathers spend an average of 33 hours doing housework and childcare, but 43 hours in leisure. Their leisure time is more than their work time.

What does this mean? Do dads just want to have fun when they stay at home? Or Stay-at-home dads are lazy dads?

Things maybe a little bit more complicated than this.

Compared with fathers who work for pay, stay-at-home fathers are slightly older (their average age is 41), less likely to be white (45% non-white) and less likely to be college-educated (19% with a college degree).

To some fathers, staying at home might be a choice, and to others, it may be not. It is safe to say that not all stay-at-home dads decided to quit their high-paying job and be a full-time homemaker.

So what is it like to be a stay-at-home dad?

I happen to know a couple who just had a baby last year, the wife was working full time and the husband’s job wasn’t stable. So when the baby was born, they decided to have the husband stay at home, saving childcare costs.

When asked about how he feels about the situation,the husband says,“Pretty good, but oh my God, the work at home is stressful, I’ve got diapers to change, etc…” But there are rewards— “My daughter is really close to me now, she prefers to stay with me even when her mother comes back from work.”

I am also curious about whether the mom is happy about the arrangement, “yeah, I am happy, my husband takes care of everything in the house” says the mom, with a big smile on her face. It is not like she doesn’t do anything at home though. “When I get home, I try to give my husband a rest. I give the baby a bath and do other things.” She also admits that she needs help, because “I don’t know where the baby’s clothes are, and where the towels are…”

Haha, it seems that men surely can do what women do. My friends’ husband is working hard at home, I know he is.