There’s no question parenting roles are changing—but just how far we’ve come in the last few decades might be surprising.
For a recent study, the Pew Research Center examined data from 1965 to 2011 collected as part of the American Time Use Survey and its own surveys to identify trends in motherhood, fatherhood, child care, and household chores. Researchers found that the while “traditional” roles are still powerful, both moms and dads are redefining parenting.
Key findings include:
- In an average workweek in 1965, fathers spent 42 hours on paid work, 4 hours on housework and 2.5 hours on child care. Dads in 2011 spent 37 hours a week on paid work, 10 hours on housework and 7 hours on child care.
- In an average workweek in 1965, mothers spent 8 hours a week on paid work, 32 hours on housework and 10 hours on child care. Women in 2011 spend 21 hours on paid work, 18 hours on housework, and 14 hours on child care.
The research report found that dads spend nearly three times more hours a week on child care than dads in 1965. While moms are still the major caregivers in a family, their time is significantly more balanced among family, work, and household chores than women in 1965. Dads in 2011 are also performing more housework duties, including cleaning, cooking, and repairing around the house than their 1965 counterparts.
Other parts of the study looked at how parents feel about the time they spend with their children and the time they are able to spend performing leisure activities they enjoy. Examples include:
- At least 50 percent of all working mothers and fathers report achieving a work-family balance is somewhat to very difficult.
- An estimated 46 percent of fathers feel they spend too little time with their children while an estimated 23 percent of mothers report they spend too little time with their children.
- Mothers and fathers spend nearly the same amount of time (slightly more than two hours) per week on recreational activities as a family. Mothers spend more physical, managerial and educational time with their children with mothers spending three more hours a week on physical care, such as diaper changes, feeding and dressing a child than dads do.
- Fathers have about three more “leisure” hours per week than mothers. Leisure time means time away from paid work, caring for children, personal care and household chores.
Just as the overscheduled child can experience heightened stress, so can the overscheduled parent. However, modern parents seem to be advancing somewhat toward more equalized roles in how they spend their time with their children and by themselves. Perhaps the most important finding is how these roles make the parent feel: Both men and women said they found the most meaning in their lives when caring for their children.
Reviewed by Dr. Eva Benmeleh, September 2020
- Today’s American fathers are spending nearly three times as much time performing childcare duties and twice as much time performing household chores as dads did in 1965.
- Mothers in 2011 are spending four hours more time a week on childcare and 14 hours less time on housework than mothers did in 1965.
- Research from The Pew Center shows traditional gender roles remain, but dads are performing more childcare and household duties.