Work Life Balance

Does Time With Your Children Constitute ‘Leisure Time’?

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TODAY had a segment about how more men than ever are participating in the home when it comes to childrearing, cooking the meals, and cleaning the home. The study featured in the segment revealed that modern fathers are spending three times as much time with their children than daddies of the 1960s did. Childcare duties when you break it down by hours level out about the same between the sexes, even among full-time working mothers. One of the hosts suggests that given these numbers, contributing fathers are currently outrunning a case of “propaganda” that assumes that they have “a slacker reputation” as parents and spouses. But before we ponder that assertion, there are some more nuanced portions of the study that deserve a closer look — particularly with what is considered “leisure time.”

Ruth Davis Konigsberg, senior editor at TIME magazine who has penned a cover story entitled “Chore Wars,” observed that husbands and wives have very different assessments of what constitutes leisure time and work time. She told the TODAY show:

What struck me is that if you ask a woman about the workload, they will often say “well, I took my kids for two hours to the zoo or to get pizza,” and they consider that both work and leisure time.

Dr. Judith Sills, a clinical psychologist, also noted that men tend to be better at making sure their leisure time doesn’t include any diapers or strollers:

Men are very good about claiming their leisure time. They are claiming their leisure time with the guys golfing or having a beer. Women spend their leisure time with their kids and their girlfriends so they’re always a little bit on duty which is why it’s hard to notice that things have equalized because a woman is always on duty with her home even when she is at work. She’s mentally working about home.

The merging of leisure time with childrearing makes the assessment of who spends more time performing which duties a little more complicated. And even if a mother does consider some outings with her children to be enjoyable, that doesn’t mean that she still isn’t dedicating more time to her children than her spouse. Factors like these are essential in this debate about domestic responsibilities, especially if researchers are so cavalier about claiming that the tug of war is over.

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