Dads Are Taking Way More Time for Themselves Than Moms, New Survey Finds

Moms are not taking enough time for self-care each week. Here's why that needs to change—and a few simple tips to make it happen.

Mother and daughter using laptop while father working in kitchen
Photo: Getty Images

Moms have long been taking on more parenting duties in heterosexual households—and that’s just increased for many during the pandemic. With that means less time for self-care and engaging in much-needed “me time.”

So, how much time are moms giving themselves each week? Way less than their male partners, according to a new survey of 1,000 parents with kids age 17 and under.

Conducted by the e-commerce company Zulily, the survey found dads are taking a lot more “me time” than moms. Thirty-seven percent of dads surveyed said they are taking six or more hours per week, while 68 percent of moms reported only taking 1 to 5 hours a week. A previous study from the company found 31 percent of moms said their “me time” had decreased since the pandemic started.

And it’s only expected to get worse during the holiday season. Nearly half of womenexperience more stress during the holiday season, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Reasons for that include juggling work and more family responsibilities—think shopping for gifts and cooking. The Zulily survey found 70 percent of moms “don’t get enough credit for all the work that goes into the holidays.”

“Mom guilt is an all-too real struggle—especially this holiday season,” says Lindsay C. Malloy, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Ontario Tech University and co-founder of Pandemic Parenting, a nonprofit with science-based knowledge, experience, and resources for families. “As a mother of two with a full-time research and teaching job, I can certainly relate. It’s often hard for me to remember that taking care of myself is not selfish and, in fact, is a really important part of making sure I can ‘show up’ for my family.”

But finding time for self-care is critical since it comes with a ton of benefits. Research has found it can increase happiness, reduce stress, reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, and may even reduce heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Of course, the often-recommended types of self-care like doing yoga and taking a warm long bath aren't always feasible. I mean, how many parents really have that kind of time? But there are simple ways for moms to take the time they need—and deserve—according to Dr. Malloy.

A good first step is saying no when you want to and being more strategic about what you say yes to. “Often, moms carry the mental load of doing the ‘extra’ tasks at work and at home,” says Dr. Malloy. “Maybe others rely on you because you always say ‘yes,’ and now might be a good time to try to change this pattern by putting your foot down.”

And don’t be scared of asking for help whenever you might need it. That's especially true for single moms and health care worker moms who may really need that extra hand. “Your co-workers, friends, neighbors, and partners all are likely willing to help take care of what needs to be done—and in some cases, they should share that responsibility,” says Dr. Malloy. “By sharing the burden of not just completing the tasks, but also thinking about what needs to be done and managing it all, you can hopefully feel less responsible—and guilty—for remembering that permission slip, doctor's appointment, holiday gift, etc. Moms too often bear most of the ‘cognitive load’ for their families.”

During the pandemic, it is also more important than ever for parents to lower expectations and be easy on themselves. In a Pandemic Parenting webinar, Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., a child psychiatrist, spoke about building resilience in children and meeting their core needs during this challenging time. What that means? “Focus on ways that you are helping your children feel loved and secure in your family," says Dr. Malloy, "so you can try to let go of the guilt related to more trivial things like screen time."

The bottom line: You're doing a great job, Mom, so go take that solo time you need!

Anna Halkidis is the features editor at Keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.

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