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.

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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.