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Parenting and Household Tasks: How Dads Contribute

Based on our recent Moms on the Mother Load study, we found that moms say they are the carrier of the mental load, which includes the organizing, planning, and reminding of family tasks, but what do dads say? Data from the same survey reveals that dads contribute to household and parenting tasks in a different way, and the divisions of labor are quite clear.

To highlight the differences in responsibilities among co-parents, we used an index to compare the co-parenting dads who say they’re primarily responsible for each task against all co-parents in our sample. An index above 100 indicates that dads who co-parent are more likely than moms who co-parent to say they are primarily responsible for that task.

Household tasks
Our data shows that co-parenting dads are 79% more likely (179 index) to say they are primarily responsible for mowing the lawn than co-parenting moms.  According to dads, they are also more likely to maintain the vehicles (175 index), take the garbage out (153 index), and pay the bills (131 index).

Where do co-parenting dads index below the average?  Laundry, cleaning the house, and cooking dinner are the least likely household tasks to be primarily handled by dads. This ultimately means that all these tasks, which are done frequently and regularly, are more likely to be the responsibility of moms who co-parent.

It is interesting to note, however, how the tasks are divided.  Our research illustrates that co-parenting dads are more likely to be responsible for about half of the household tasks listed, with co-parenting moms being more likely responsible for the other half. When it comes to parenting tasks, however, this division is not as equal.

Parenting tasks
Of the 21 parenting tasks listed in the survey, including everything from making doctor’s appointments to organizing playdates, dads who co-parent reported that they are less likely than moms to be the primary person responsible for almost every task with the exception of one.  Preparing for a child to attend college (109 Index) is the only item in the list of parenting tasks where dads index above 100 and therefore means that this is sole task where dads are more likely to be responsible for than moms. Dads do index closest to the average, however, when it comes to changing diapers, exposing children to religion, and taking children to and from activities and school.

Where the household task data shows clear groups of tasks that co-parenting dads primarily do and tasks that co-parenting moms primarily do, the parenting task data does not show the same type of division. There are very few parenting tasks that co-parenting dads are more likely to report being primarily responsible for, compared to co-parenting moms.

Overall, these findings support the conclusions drawn in our Moms on the Motherload study, that even with another parent to help, co-parenting moms are the primary motors that keep the home and family running. But as society evolves and dads continue to become more involved in parenting than their own fathers were, it will be fascinating to see what the division of labor looks like in the future.

Index
Index is a measure that allows for comparison of a certain population against an average. An index of 100 represents the average. A target population has an index of 100 when it exhibits the same proportion of a characteristic as the average.

How the study was conducted
In August 2018, Edison Research conducted an online national survey of 966 parents of children age 21 and under and asked them to indicate who does what in their household and how they feel about their responsibilities.

Maid In America

Below is an advertisement from 1956 for Lux liquid detergent. It depicts an overwhelmed wife and mother, surrounded by piles of dirty dishes and tableware. The father, however, is shown in the top left corner reclining and relaxing, with a happy smile as he enjoys leisure time after a hard day’s work.

Household Tasks

 

This snapshot in time illustrates how, like the many women before her, a mother’s sole responsibility was the household and everything in it, including cooking, and cleaning.

On the surface, it seems that women have come a long way since this advertisement was published. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 27% of mothers with children under 18 were part of the 1955 labor force; this number more than doubles to 71% in 2013. Today’s mother is modern and a transformation from her 1950s ancestor; she works, she drives, she plans, she wears pants (gasp!), and she manages the household budget.

Now, would you be surprised to discover that in 2015, mom is still the one responsible for handling the majority of those 1950’s items? The Research Moms are, too.

In a 2015 study of mothers with children age 21 and under, The Research Moms asked, “How do you and your family balance the household tasks?” A startling 82% of these mothers said they do the majority of the tasks, with more than a quarter (26%) handling all of the chores. This is in stark contrast with the 1% of mothers who say they aren’t involved at all with any of the household tasks. Only 16% reported sharing the tasks evenly with their family members.

Household Tasks

This isn’t to say that dads don’t contribute to the household. 2011 Pew Research data showed fathers of children under 18 spent an average of 10 hours a week on housework, compared to the 18 hours spent by mothers. The discrepancy, however, lies in the type of housework mothers and fathers undertake. Working Mother found in its 2015 study that mothers are mainly responsible for chores inside the household, such as dusting, cooking, and doing the laundry. Fathers, on the other hand, typically handle the outside tasks, such as car maintenance, mowing the lawn, and taking out the garbage.

In the 1950s, gender roles were pretty well-defined. Mothers stayed home to cook and clean while their husbands were out working to provide for their families. One might assume that if gender roles blurred together and mothers worked like fathers did, then the household maintenance would be more evenly divided. Yes, one might assume this, but then again, one should remember what happens when one assumes. The Research Moms’ data shows a whopping 83% of today’s working mothers are still responsible for the majority of household chores, which is just as high as stay-at-home mothers. In fact, even 76% of breadwinner mothers, or moms who serve as the primary earner of the family, are not exempt from doing the majority of household duties.

So while it’s true that mothers have only added to their list of responsibilities, it’s also true that they’ve been successful at it. They run corporate meetings, schedule playdates, organize school events and still make time to maintain the household.

Today’s mothers have given new meaning to the word superhero, since not only are they bringing home the bacon but they are cooking it as well.

 

How the study was conducted:

The Research Moms conducted a national online survey of 540 mothers with children age 21 and under in 2015.

 

Mom’s (Not) the Inspiration

Who inspires mom?  Does her own mother serve as her main guide to be the best she can be?  According to data from The Research Moms, it turns out that the mother-daughter relationship is a little more complicated than you’d think.

While many moms may be influenced by their own mothers (good or bad), when we asked mothers to tell us which woman in their lives inspired them most, only 36% said their mothers. There are differences among age, however, with 44% of younger moms, age 18-34, choosing their mother, compared to the 31% of moms age 35 and older.

What would this number have been just a generation ago, when more women chose to stay home, as their mothers did with them?  These women may have looked more to their own mothers for inspiration.  With over 60% of the sample made up of working moms, there are clear differences in how stay-at-home and working moms responded.  Forty-two percent of stay-at-home moms said their mother, compared to 34% of working moms.

So who else does mom seeking encouragement from in the circle of women she knows?  The data shows that moms find inspiration in many different types of women in their lives.  Twenty-two percent said it was a friend who encourages them, whereas 13% turn to other female relatives (e.g. sister, aunt).  Seven percent look up to a colleague, and 6% said a teacher.

Moms_Not_the_Inspiration

So, where else does mom go for inspiration? To find out, we then asked mothers to name the female celebrity or public figure who inspired them the most.  Which type of women did they choose?  They named women who wear multiple hats – much like moms do today. They chose actresses, talk show hosts, producers, philanthropists, public speakers, politicians, activists and humanitarians.

Here’s how the top three answers stacked up among mothers naming a celebrity/public figure:

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Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com*

Oprah Winfrey – 11%

More than four years since The Oprah Winfrey Show went off the air, Oprah’s influence remains high. So, why is she still so inspirational?  With ten years on the Time 100 list and a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her philanthropy, it’s easy to assume it’s because her accomplishments and influence are lasting.

But, for mom, perhaps it’s really the perseverance Oprah has displayed on her way to the top, even after struggling through a difficult and abusive childhood.  Or, maybe, it’s the close relationships she has maintained with her friends, like the 30+ year friendship she’s had with Gayle King.

 

 

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s_bukley / Shutterstock.com*

Ellen Degeneres 10%

Every weekday afternoon for the last ten years, Ellen has danced her way out on to her talk show stage.  What lessons does Ellen impart for mom?  She’s never been afraid to be herself – coming out to Oprah (#1 on our list!) as TV’s first openly gay star.

And, while her show rarely focuses on hard-hitting global issues, moms tune in because Ellen has an incredible ability to inspire her fans, without taking herself too seriously.  And how can moms not smile and think of Ellen every time one of their kiddos watches Dory in Disney’s Finding Nemo.

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Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com*

 

Angelina Jolie – 7%        

With adopted children from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam and three biological children (including a set of twins!), Angelina Jolie sounds a little bit like super mom.  While many mothers may be jealous of her lucky-lady status as the other half to Brad Pitt, Angelina has never needed Brad to make headlines.

Aside from being fiercely committed to her job and her many philanthropic roles – like Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees – she is frequently photographed setting aside time for fun with her family.

 

Rounding out the top ten were Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Aniston, Mother Teresa, Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Sandra Bullock.

From the ladies they connect with in their everyday lives, to somewhat larger-than-life celebrities, it’s clear that mothers seek inspiration from many sources.

How the study was conducted:

The Research Moms conducted a national online survey of 540 mothers with children age 21 and under in February 2015.

*Images used under license from Shutterstock.com

School’s Out (For the Summer)!

As school starts winding down and the weather starts heating up, parents are reminded of the few months ahead when their children are out of school. It’s safe to assume that kids are excited to take time off from schoolwork, but what about mothers?

Aside from being an educational institution, school is also considered a form of childcare for many parents. It provides a safe environment in which children are stimulated, educated, socialized, entertained, and fed for a good portion of the day. So what are moms’ opinions on the months when school’s out and kids are home full-time? The Research Moms have the answer and it might surprise you.

When asked to categorize their feelings about summer vacation, more than two-thirds (69%) of moms of school-age children (Kindergarten through 12th grade) said they really liked having their children out of school all summer. Surprisingly, this sentiment is pretty consistent among different types of moms, with 70% of working mothers and 68% of stay-at-home mothers choosing this response as well.

Only 3% disliked summer vacation and the stress it brings regarding childcare options and activities for children to do. The remaining 28% fell somewhere in the middle with liking it in the beginning but ready for school to start again halfway through summer.

Summers Out

You may be tilting your head and thinking, “Huh?” at this data but let’s think a little harder at what summer vacation might mean for moms. Sure, they’re losing 7-8 hours of “free” time a day, but consider some of the pluses:

  • No more homework – This is a relief not just for kids, but for parents too, who help their children with their homework. According to a 2015 survey from Education.com, 80% of parents reported spending more time helping their kids with homework than their parents spent with them.
  • Less rushing – Getting children up, dressed, out the door, and on the bus on-time are no easy feats so it’s no wonder moms enjoy having summers off. While summer camps run on a similar schedule, parents are not checking for homework or school projects.
  • Fewer dance, soccer, cheerleading, baseball, piano, (insert other extracurricular activity here) classes – Throw extracurricular activities into the mix and the school year is even busier, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting that 57% of children between 6 and 17 years old are involved with a least one after-school activity. And since parents are most likely coordinating these schedules and figuring out transportation to and from these activities, they probably enjoy a respite from some, if not all, the chaos.
  • More fun – The days are longer, the weather is nicer, and the ice cream man rings nightly. Despite the occasional groans of boredom, kids are happy to be out of school and are probably not complaining as often. Happiness is contagious and it’s likely that mom catches some of the joy as well.

So while a famous Christmas carol observes that “Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again,” it seems that summertime is a completely different season.