American Mothers Are Exhausted, Do Far More Child Care And Housework

Parents with children under 18 on the whole say that child care activities are very meaningful, but they are exhausted by them, according to a new Pew report based on an analysis of the American Time Use Survey. They rate 12 percent of child care activities “very tiring” but say the same about just 5 percent of what they have to do for paid work.

But mothers are far more exhausted than fathers. When it comes to all four of the categories Pew broke activities into — child care, paid work, housework, and leisure — mothers report being more tired than fathers. Child care makes 15 percent of mothers “very tired,” but just 6 percent of fathers.

And while fathers spend more time in paid work — 40 hours a week versus 23 hours — mothers are spending nearly double the time on unpaid work, devoting 31 hours a week versus 17 hours for fathers. Fathers also eke out three more hours of leisure time a week than mothers do.

The breakdown of what fathers do during the hours spent with their children is also telling, as they tend to spend more time on pleasurable activities. Mothers spend about two and a half times more hours tending to physical needs and about two times more on managerial and educational activities. But fathers spend nearly the same amount of time playing with their kids, perhaps the most enjoyable part of being with a child.


When it comes to housework, the tasks break down along traditional gender roles. Fathers spend more time doing repairs and maintenance — think lawn mowing and tinkering with cars — while mothers do more cooking and cleaning.

Past reports have similarly found that women still do far more of the work around the house. On an average day, nearly half of women do housework, while less than 20 percent of men do. And on those days women do housework, they do more of it. Yet a record number of families rely on women’s paychecks from paid work, either because of the rise in single motherhood or a larger group of women earning more than their husbands.

It may also be somewhat unfair to blame fathers for focusing more on paid work than what’s going on at home. Fathers who spend time caring for their children are treated worse than their coworkers who have a more traditional arrangement.