Last week, the Pew Research Center released a lengthy report on how parents spend their time, now and in the past. I posted on Thursday about whether women would earn more if they did less at home. Today I want to look at another interesting part of the report, on how married couples with one income spend their time.
We can think of such families as “traditional” (dad works, mom stays home) or “reverse traditional” (mom works, dad stays home). The former are more common than the latter, though neither are that common; the majority of parents these days are in the workforce to some degree or another.
Anyway, the Pew Research Center analyzed findings from the American Time Use Survey, and produced some interesting insights on how much time parents in such families devote to work, childcare, and housework.
Total workweeks (adding “market” and “non-market” work) in dual-income households with kids at home are surprisingly similar. Fathers work 58.0 hours per week and mothers work 58.6. The split is different: fathers work 41.6 hours for pay and mothers work 30.9, while housework is split 9.4/15.7 and childcare is split 7.0/11.9. But the total workloads are surprisingly similar.
This is not the case in single-income households — both for those with male breadwinners and female breadwinners.
In traditional families, the father has a total work week of 56.7 hours, whereas the mother has a work week of 45.8 hours. Fathers work 42.5 hours for pay, do 7.6 hours of housework, and 6.5 hours of childcare. Mothers do 0.6 hours of paid work, 25.5 hours of housework, and 19.7 hours of childcare. In such families, fathers have 25.5 hours of leisure time per week and mothers have 29.2 hours.
Such traditional families turn out to be the only families in which moms have more leisure time than dads. When mothers are the breadwinners in reverse traditional families, they do 35.1 hours of paid work. They do 14.1 hours of housework and 8.9 hours of childcare. The fathers in such households do 3.4 hours per week of paid work (I’ll discuss this below), 17.9 hours of housework and 11.3 hours of childcare. This gives them a total workweek of 32.6 hours, vs. 58.1 hours for their wives. Stay-at-home fathers have 42.8 hours of leisure time per week, vs. 22.7 for their wives.
These are interesting numbers, with a few things I noticed.
Having a stay-at-home wife doesn’t really change a father’s home load or total work hours. Indeed, such fathers work less than one hour more for pay per week than fathers in dual-income couples. They spend about 2 hours less on housework, and half an hour less on childcare. There’s a narrative that if a woman stays home it frees her husband up to work more, but on average that doesn’t seem to be the case from a time perspective.
Being a stay-at-home parent does buy you more leisure time. This is probably not true when kids are very young. But by the time they’re out of the baby stage, more time opens up. Mothers are more likely to fill potential leisure time with housework than stay-at-home fathers.
SAHDs look a lot like moms in dual-income households, from a perspective of how much time they spend on childcare and housework.
Breadwinner mothers do a bit less housework and childcare than moms in dual-income couples do, but the difference is not huge. As a result, such women have less leisure time than their partners. While stay-at-home moms have more leisure time than their husbands, the difference is not as pronounced as in reverse traditional couples.
So what’s going on here? To a degree, mothers — even those who are single-earners in their families — may still see housework and childcare as their jobs. They aren’t as willing to delegate this to their husbands, or their husbands aren’t as interested in taking on some of this work (particularly on the housework front — which may reflect different standards between men and women).
It may also be that some chunk of reverse traditional families wound up in this situation not entirely by choice. Dad may have lost a job, and the 3.4 hours of paid work for these supposed single-income families may reflect job searching or consulting, and the 35 hours of paid work for mom (vs 42 for breadwinner dads) may not reflect the mindset of someone who intended to be a breadwinner from the outset. Whereas in traditional families, perhaps mom sees housework and childcare as her chosen profession, and so these numbers are higher and the paid work number is pretty close to zero.
I will admit, though, that I’m just speculating in that last paragraph. Why do you think SAHDs might spend their time differently than SAHMs, and breadwinner mothers spend their time differently than similar fathers?
Photo courtesy flickr user Inha Leex Hale