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Moms Are Still Doing Most of the Dirty Work When It Comes to Raising Kids

If dads would pitch in more, a new study says, moms could have more fun.

tired mom with vacuum Rob Marmion/Shutterstock
Moms today may be working at nearly double the rate of their grandmothers, but they're still doing most of the dirty work when it comes to parenting. And according to a new study, that makes the time they spend with their kids more stressful than it is for fathers.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Cornell used American Time Use Survey data to measure how happy, sad, stressed, and fatigued 12,000 parents were throughout the day, and how meaningful their time was both with their children and apart.

The results? Moms reported higher levels of stress and fatigue when they were with their kids, something researchers say is a direct result of the fact that moms are multitaskers who do more of the essential behind-the-scenes management—cooking meals, cleaning kids' rooms, helping with homework, driving to doctor's appointments—while dads get to do all the cool, relaxing, fun stuff.

"It's fair to say that moms do more of the work," explained study author Ann Meier. "There's been some change, but we haven't reached gender equality in parenting. Dad's time with kids is more likely to be in leisure activities, like watching TV or maybe going to a concert or sporting event as a spectator, socializing, eating and meal time, but not the work necessarily of preparing the meal."

Hmm. It's true—my husband doesn't prepare family meals. But he does do the dishes every night once we're done eating. We also tend to watch TV as a family. And even though I'm the one responsible for most of the carpooling, he pitches in when he can. He takes the trash out, too. But guess what? I'm still tired.

Meier says that if dads picked up more of the "work" of parenting, and left some of the fun to moms, then their female partners would be happier, less stressed, and less tired. But I'm not totally buying it. Raising kids is hard work, no matter how much you work as a team to divvy up the responsibilities. In fact, I've found that as my kids get older and the amount of physical parenting work dwindles, my stress level is actually getting higher. There is less to do, but more to worry about. And no amount of housework picked up by my husband can ever change that.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.