Mothers carry more burdens in parenting than fathers, according to a new study led by a sociologist from Cornell University.
“It’s not that moms are so stressed out with their kids, but relative to fathers, they’re experiencing more strain,” study’s co-author Kelly Musick said in a statement.
This is because mothers spend more time with their children while at the same time performing other difficult chores like cooking, cleaning, and basic childcare.
They also perform more solo parenting, have less time for leisure, and have more sleep disruptions, which in turn are all linked with lower levels of well-being.
On the other hand, fathers spend more of their time with kids in low-stress, enjoyable activities such as leisure and play.
“Mothers are doing different things with their children than fathers are, things that we know aren’t as enjoyable,” said Musick. “Playing with their kids is a particularly enjoyable experience for parents. And dads are doing more play as a share of the total amount of time they spend with their kids.”
She also said that fathers don’t have the lone responsibility for their children as often as the mothers because much of the time the fathers spend with their children is family time, which is when the mothers are also present.
Musick mentioned that mothers are like “sweepers” in a soccer game who have to do what they must in defending their goal—an analogy that came from the late sociologist Suzanne Bianchi.
“They’re going to play when they have time to play, but they’re going to make sure they have everything else covered,” she said.
She added that taking into account everything they’re doing, one realizes it’s simply “a smaller share of their time.”
The researchers analyzed time-use diaries dated 2010 to 2013 from the American Time Use Surveys and observed reports of 12,000 parents on their emotions and activities in three random periods on a 24-hour day.
The parents ranked how sad, happy, tired, and stressed they felt as well as how meaningful was the activity they did for every period.
The researchers made comparison on how parents felt doing activities with their kids and how they felt with the same activities without their kids.
Musick said, “A lot of how parents feel about parenting is based on incidental moments with kids.”
She added that a lot of parenting is contained in small moments such as hanging out on a sofa or grocery shopping.
An associate professor of policy analysis and management at the said university, Musick assumed that maybe because there are higher expectations for mothers than fathers, the former then performs more of the tedious parenting work.
Also, differences in parenting standards in society factor in considerably.
“As a sociologist, I wish we, as a society, could let go of some of the assumptions and constraints we place on the mother and father roles. The mom and the dad are interacting within a societal framework that is out of their control to a great extent,” she said.
Musick added that while couples can work together in changing their parenting methods, it’s still not the real solution.
She suggested that the solution is the collective rethinking of expectations of fathers and mothers.
The study titled “How Parents Fare: Mothers’ and Fathers’ Subjective Well-Being in Time with Children” was published in the American Sociological Review.