US parents find kid care more exhausting than paid job

Posted Oct. 13, 2013, at 5:43 a.m.

Ah, the joys of parenting: sleepless nights, endless laundry, cooking meals and coordinating carpools.

In findings that likely ring true to many mothers and fathers, a Pew Research Center report issued on Tuesday said U.S. parents find caring for their children far more exhausting — though also more rewarding — than the work they do for pay.

Pew said parents with children under age 18 rated 12 percent of child care activities “very tiring,” compared with only 5 percent of work-related activities dubbed that draining. Some 62 percent of parents said child care experiences were “very meaningful,” compared with 36 percent who rated paid work activities of equal value.

“It’s so true, just managing the kids’ schedules is exhausting,” said Jennifer Davidson Patykiewicz, a 36-year-old Kansas City-area mother of three children ages 3, 7, and 9. Patykiewicz worked as a pharmacist for seven years before leaving her job in September to care for her children full time.

Now, she spends her days taking her children to and from school and sporting activities, cooking for her family and cleaning her home.

“It’s definitely more rewarding for sure,” she said. “But also more of a challenge.”

The Pew report is based on an analysis of information gathered in a 2010 American Time Use Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Respondents answer questions through a ‘time diary’ that gauges both how people spend their time and how they feel about it.

“This is an objective measure,” said Wendy Wang, a Pew researcher who wrote the report. “It does capture the exact feeling that parents experience in these different type of daily activities.”

Mothers reported greater feelings of exhaustion in child care activities than did fathers, and spent much more time than fathers doing unpaid child care activities and housework — 31 hours per week versus 17 hours. Fathers had about three hours more leisure time per week than mothers, the report said.

“Overall, Mom is doing more,” said Wang.

When looking at the specific activities that parents engage in, the analyses also suggests that fathers and mothers allocate their time quite differently during similar types of activities, the Pew report said.

Fathers spend significantly less time than mothers in almost all child-care activities except for playing with children, where the gap is the smallest. Fathers and mothers on average both spend about two hours per week in recreational-type child care activities.

 

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