The Latest Not-So-Shocking Research Finding—Dads Often Chill While Moms Keep Working

Science says dads are spending more time on the sofa than moms are, and we aren't the least bit surprised.
c.k/FOAP

Sometimes at night after the kids have gone to bed, I'll be folding laundry, or packing school lunches for the next day, or picking up around the house, and there he'll be; my husband, kicking back on the sofa, watching TV. So I wasn't surprised to come across a study published in the journal Sex Roles that finds that most of the time, while moms are working, men are relaxing.

According to researchers from The Ohio State University, who looked at 52 couples, this predictable pattern starts just three months after the birth of a first child. Consider that the female participants spent 46 to 49 minutes relaxing while men did child care or housework on their day off. Um, that sounds like a lot more time than I usually get! But then again, men are Netflix and chillin' twice as much as us ladies; about 101 minutes, while their female partners work.

Lead study author Claire Kamp Dush said in a press release about the findings, "It's frustrating. Household tasks and child care are still not being shared equally, even among couples who we expected would have more egalitarian views of how to share parenting duties."

Interestingly, time diaries filled out by the highly educated couples showed that on workdays after a baby was born, men and women performed almost equal amounts of housework and child care versus on non-workdays. It was those non-workdays during which the dads valued their leisure time a bit more, especially after baby arrived.

The diaries revealed that men relaxed 46 percent of the time while women performed child care duties. But women put their feet up just 16 percent of the time when their partners were doing the child rearing. When it came to household chores, dad were "off" 35 percent of the time, while women kept on cleaning. Women rested 19 percent of the time men were doing housework.

But is anyone really surprised by any of this? In our house, I can attest that my hubby seems to need more time doing nothing than I do. I can always think of something that feels more important than relaxing, like working on sewing my daughter's Girl Scout patches on her vest, or mopping the kitchen, or organizing the playroom, or slicing strawberries for the next day, or making my grocery list, or... Well, in any case, I know I kind of do it to myself.

But Kamp Dush said, "I was expecting to see a lot more minutes where the couple was doing some kind of housework or child care together. I suspect the situation may be even less equitable for women who don't have all the advantages of the couples in our sample."

The takeaway? According to her, "Couples need to be having conversations, ideally before their baby is born, about how they are going to divide household tasks to make sure they are equitable." I couldn't agree more; except plans and reality aren't always the same.

"Society puts expectations on moms to be perfect," she told Parents. "So we might manage our husband’s parenting, but men have been helping to take care of kids for millions of years." In other words: "Let you husband take care of the baby. The baby will survive. To be fair, men may not want to give up their leisure, but they may not realize how much moms are doing. So let them know." And let them help!

Or, be like me, and keep things the way they are, because otherwise you might have to deal with laundry that is folded like origami, and school lunches that look like the TCBY toppings bar. Yup, I'd rather let my spouse enjoy his time on the sofa. But maybe that's just my Type-A neuroticism speaking.

What's your take?

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Melissa Willets is a writer, mom and coffee devotee. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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