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Child Duties Tend to Burden Moms, But Are Fun for Dads

Child Duties Tend to Burden Moms, But Are Fun for Dads

A new study using time diary data suggests that although moms enjoy being with their kids, they are less happy than fathers with parenting duties.

The research team from Cornell University, the University of Minnesota, and Minnesota Population Center discovered mothers report more stress and greater fatigue than fathers.

This experience gap is attributed to the differing tasks of each parent. The paper appears in the American Sociological Review.

“The good news from our study is that parents generally enjoy being with their kids,” said University of Minnesota researcher Ann Meier, Ph.D., “but the bad news is that mothers enjoy it less than fathers because they do more of the ‘work’ and less of the ‘fun’ parenting tasks.”

Meier and her colleagues Drs. Kelly Musick at Cornell University and Sarah Flood at the Minnesota Population Center used time diary data from more than 12,000 parents that linked to their feelings in the 2010, 2012, and 2013 American Time Use Survey.

The team examined the types of parenting activities mothers and fathers performed and individual well-being during the activities.

The researchers found that not only do parenting activities between mothers and fathers differ, the environment surrounding the activity differs as well. Meier explained, “when mothers are with their kids, they are more often by themselves.

“When fathers are with their kids, they are more likely to have other adults around, offering some back-up. This helps us understand why fathers are less stressed when with kids.”

Sleep also had an effect on parents’ differing levels of happiness, said Meier.

“Mothers are more likely than fathers to be called on by kids ‘around the clock.’ Fathers’ sleep and down-time are less likely than mothers’ to be interrupted by kids. This is part of the reason fathers are less tired than mothers when parenting.”

Experts say the new paper confirms what many mothers have noted anecdotally. Researchers hope the new information about parenting, activities, and happiness may help close the experience gap between genders.

Meier said, “Having data systematically collected from thousands of parents allows us to confirm what parents have known for years — that parenting is meaningful but also stressful and tiring. Many mothers will recognize their experiences of interrupted sleep and daily feeding and bathing.

“Hopefully, many dads will see that their partners will likely be happier if they trade some of their leisure time with kids for more of the ‘work’ of parenting.”

Source: University of Minnesota

Child Duties Tend to Burden Moms, But Are Fun for Dads

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Child Duties Tend to Burden Moms, But Are Fun for Dads. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 5 Oct 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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