Given the passions that discussion of women, careers, and children seems to spark — here and elsewhere! — I’ve been thinking this topic could really use some more data. I’m starting to build up my database (for research) of time logs of women who earn $100,000 per year, and have kids at home. I’ll admit this is an imprecise definition of “having it all,” to be sure, but I’m curious if the trade-offs popular culture assumes are made are actually made or — to use the specific language from a blog post two weeks ago — if there is space for dandelions and paychecks.
Hence the name I’ve been calling this project in my own notes.
Anyway, this project will evolve over time and I’ll need pro help with specific research aspects of it. But if you know people who might like to participate — or if you’ve already logged your time for me, but would like to add the income data point to your file — please let me know. I’m happy to offer feedback on the time logs via phone or email if that would make the project worth the time for people, and since this is as much for data collection purposes as anything else, subjects can be completely anonymous (unless someone wants to be interviewed). Please email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.
On that note, I realize that we have some new readers around here over the last few months who may wonder why I started writing about time management. The back story is that I’m fascinated by the study of time and its use. I write about time management because such books are more commercially viable, and I do think we can all get better at how we use our time. But if anyone reading this is also interested in the academic topic of time use, here are a few more scholarly books/projects on time that offer good information on the topic:
Time for Life: The surprising ways Americans use their time, by John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey (1997) Written in part as a response to Juliet Schor’s The Overworked American, Robinson and Godbey use decades of time diary data to pick apart the arguments that Americans spend more time working than ever before, and have no time for leisure. The studies in this book show pretty conclusively that how we think we spend our time often has little to do with how we actually spend our time.
Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, by Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie (2006). I found a paper of Bianchi’s years ago that showed exactly why there was no evidence that the flood of mothers into the workforce hurt children. First, women, just like men, don’t work as many hours as we think. Second, women switched off housework for paid work, hour for hour, rather than switching off childcare for housework. Finally, women who are not in the workforce spend less time interacting with their children than we tend to assume — partly because children, from a young age, start to have their own lives and aren’t available to spend time with. In this book, she and her colleagues elaborate on more of this data, and likewise show that impressions of time use are faulty. In one memorable chart, these sociologists show that estimates of how much time people devote to chores are often off by a factor of 2 or more, for both men and women. You can guess in which direction. No one underestimates how much time she/he spends doing the dishes.
Life at Home in the 21st Century, by Jeanne E. Arnold et al (2012). This study of dual-income, middle-class LA families found that kids spend less than 40 minutes playing in their backyards per week, and adults spend less than 15 minutes enjoying leisure time in their yards per week. And this is in LA! Other interesting discoveries include that families that claim to eat dinner together all the time…often don’t.
The Executive Time Use Project. This project, run out of the London School of Economics and Political Science, looks at how CEOs in different countries spend their time.
And, of course, the American Time Use Project is a stunning data set put out by the BLS every year on how Americans spend their days. This usually comes out in late June, and among other things, shows that Americans sleep plenty. The average American logs well over 8 hours in a 24-hour period. Even parents of young kids get their 8 hours. I look forward to writing about this year's data when it's released!