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Working moms ― and dads ― strive to find balance

Sunday, March 17, 2013  
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The stress of juggling job and parenting responsibilities is being felt by nearly equal percentages of working mothers and fathers, according to a report by Pew Research Center.

Fifty-six percent of working moms and 50 percent of working dads find it somewhat or very difficult to balance their work/life responsibilities, according to "Modern Parenthood: Roles of Moms and Dads Converge as They Balance Work and Family,” based on a nationwide survey of 2,511 adults and the American Time Use Survey.

Adding to the stress, 40 percent of working mothers and 34 percent of working fathers say they always feel rushed in trying to meet their obligations.

Long-term statistics indicate dramatic changes in the roles of mothers and fathers over the past 50 years, with responsibilities as provider and parent converging, the report noted. In 1965, mothers spent an average of 8 hours per week on paid work, while mothers in 2011 spent an average of 21 hours working.

Women's attitudes toward work have also changed. Between 2007 and 2012, the percentage of moms of children under 18 years old who cited full-time work as an ideal situation rose from 20 percent to 32 percent. Conversely, the percentage of those who said they would prefer not to work outside the home fell from 29 percent to 20 percent.

Today's financial hardships are acknowledged by both genders. In 2009, 54 percent of fathers with children under the age of 17 said the ideal situation for young children was having a mother who did not work outside the home. Today, 37 percent of the fathers with children under 17 say the same. Forty-five percent of mothers and 41 percent of fathers believe a mother who works part-time presents an ideal situation for young children.

Two-income homes share labor

Dual-income households typically demonstrate a more equal division of overall labor ― combining paid work, child care and housework― among parents than single-income households, according to the report. In two-income households, fathers average 58 hours of total work time per week, while mothers average 59 hours. When father is the sole provider of income, his workload averages 57 hours per week to the mother's workload of 46 hours per week. Mothers functioning as sole breadwinner face a sharp increase in workload, with 58 total hours spent in work, child care and housework per week compared to her spouse or partner's average workload of 33 hours.

The amount of time fathers spend in housework has more than doubled since 1965, from an average of four hours per week to 10 hours. During the same time period, mothers' average time doing housework has gone down significantly, from 32 hours per week to 18.

While a gender gap still exists in the amount of time mothers and fathers spend with their children, fathers have nearly tripled their time with the kids since 1965. Working dads currently spend an average of 7.3 hours with their children per week, while working moms average 13.5 hours per week.

Time spent with family is key to working parents' evaluation of their own parenting skills. Thirty percent of parents who are satisfied with the amount of time they spend with their children say they are doing an excellent job of parenting, compared to 11 percent of parents who say they spend too little time with their children.

Full report

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