According to a study that came out in October, new moms spent less than an hour kicking back their feet on their day off from work. Yep—after a long week of pulling double duty as a working mother, balancing household chores and keeping their infant alive, women don’t even get a real break on the weekends.
Researchers analyzed time-diary data from a sample of 182 mostly white couples who were largely married, college-educated, dual-earning, and middle-class. For each minute of time on a specific day, the study’s authors looked at what the mom was doing and compared that to what the dad was doing. They focused on two time periods to get an idea of what the transition to parenthood looks like: Participants were interviewed between 2008 and 2010 in the third trimester of pregnancy and at three-months postpartum.
If you thought the U.S. was moving closer to an egalitarian society, you’ll probably find the study’s results disheartening: Women spent about 46 to 49 minutes enjoying themselves in leisure while their partners were at work or doing chores/handling baby duties. In contrast, men spent 101 minutes chilling out while their partners managed the household. In other words, according to the study, “Fathers were engaged in leisure 46% of the time when their partners were doing childcare on the nonworkday. In contrast, mothers were engaged in leisure only about 16% of the time while their partners were engaged in childcare.”
Overall, women were found to be more likely involved in childcare than men. On workdays, they spent 99 minutes taking care of their kid, and on non-workdays, they spent 92 minutes. Men, on the other hand, managed to carve out 38 minutes and 34 minutes on working and nonworking days, respectively.
What’s even more infuriating is that researchers discovered the amount of leisure time over the transition period actually increased (from 47 minutes in during the third trimester to 101 minutes at three months postpartum) for men—leaving many women to wonder: How is that even possible?
Claire Kamp Dush is an associate professor of human sciences at Ohio State University and lead author on the study. She says the research was partially inspired by the fact that she has four boys, and she and her husband both work full time. “A lot of women are going say, ‘Duh. We feel this. This is not shocking,’” she says. “But what’s interesting is that we’re now in this place where men and women are working about the same amount of hours a week, women have fully moved into the labor force, and people have attitudes that the father should be involved with their children. But yet it’s still not happening.”
There are a number of possible reasons for these time differences, Kamp Dush says: Perhaps men are lazy; perhaps women are micromanaging the household and childcare duties.
Either way, she continues, it’s important for couples to be having conversations about what life is going to be like with babies before, uh, babies actually get here. “We get into these routines of who does what early on,” Kamp Dush explains. “Women are off work longer when they have their babies, and they’re making those doctor appointments, those well-checks, and they just get in the habit of doing that stuff. Eventually, you get to this point where you’re the one doing the baby’s laundry, making all the well check visits, making sure you got the pediatric dentist appointment.”
This is why she’d like to see the U.S. adopt a family leave policy. “Because everything falls on [women], they end up adapting and doing way more, but not because they’re inherently better at it. Because from the very first moments of this first child’s birth, it’s falling on them—and they adapt.”