Moms Have More Leisure Time Than They Think, Researcher Says

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True

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Researchers say moms have more time on their hands than they think they do. Credit: zoutedrop, Flickr

You work a full-time job and then you come home and make dinner, clean the house and put the kids to bed. And don't forget about the laundry. Sounds like a full day's work, doesn't it? Not to some researchers, who say moms have as many as 30 hours a week to spend on leisure time.

Time-use researcher John Robinson is needling moms with the assertion that they aren't working as many hours as they think they are, according to The Washington Post Magazine. He says his data shows that Americans are working fewer hours than they did 20 years ago.

That's not so bad; shrug-worthy, even. But wait, Moms: Robinson also says his data -- collected via "time diaries," in which subjects listed their activities over a set period of time -- reveals that mothers and fathers have nearly equal workloads, including both paid and unpaid work. And here's the real gotcha: He says mothers -- actually all Americans, in fact -- have 30 to 40 hours of free time a week.

"It's very popular, the feeling that there are too many things going on, that people can't get in control of their lives," Robinson tells the Post. "But when we look at people's diaries, there just doesn't seem to be the evidence to back it up. It's a paradox. When you tell people they have 30 or 40 hours of free time every week, they don't want to believe it."

Post reporter Brigid Schulte didn't believe it, and so she kept a diary of her days. What qualified as leisure time? Waiting for a tow truck, visiting a sick friend and answering e-mails at midnight. Basically, anything that couldn't be categorized as paid work, child care or housework is categorized by Robinson as "leisure."

Dena Dyer of Fredericksburg, Texas doesn't buy it either. Mother to Jordan, 11, and Jackson, 5, Dyer also is busy with her career as a blogger and freelance writer (her work has appeared in Women's World and Nick Jr. Digest). She sides with Schulte, saying that 30 to 40 hours a week "sounds really high and almost laughable, unless you call sleep 'leisure time.' "

"I'm a mom and most of my friends are moms. We're lucky to have an hour or two of leisure time a day -- 14 hours a week, at the most -- to call our own, after taking care of work, kids, hubby and other responsibilities," she tells ParentDish. "And that's if we can stay awake after the children are in bed!"

Dyer adds that she could possibly see Robinson's theory being true for a mom who stays at home and whose kids are in school.

"Even then," she says, "many moms spend a lot of their time with kid- and family-related errands, like buying groceries, handling the bills and scheduling doctor's appointments and social time for their families."

When moms do get a chance to go off the grid for a girls' night out, they find themselves bombarded with text messages and phone calls from their kids and husbands. Dyer is no exception, and says she's tried to talk to her family about not bugging her when she's having a little precious down time.

"Usually, I'll have a phone call from one of my sons or my husband at least once or twice during time with friends, even if it's just for an hour, or when I'm trying to be alone with my thoughts," she says. "We laugh about it, but it does bug me a lot at times."

"I'm a solo entrepreneur with my own business, a wife and the mother of a very active 2-year old, Zilia," says Barnsley Brown of Chapel Hill, N.C. "I can't even imagine having 30 hours of leisure time -- unless I was six feet under ground!"

Is 30 hours of free time realistic? Here's what some of our ParentDish Twitter followers have to say:

@ParentDish yeah, right! Maybe that researcher could come over to watch my kids and clean my house so I can read his research.

@ParentDish 30 hours of free time...are they including sleep time?

@ParentDish: "I'm laughing so hard I almost can't type this! Moms have 30 hours of free time a week? I'm happy if I get 30 minutes!"

@ParentDish Ha! Is sleeping time considered "free" time? Wait til I tell my wife she has 30 free hours. It won't be pretty.

Related: Married With Children ... and More Perks at Work?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.