Working Moms vs. Working Dads: Who Worries About Family Life More?
A study examines how working mothers and working fathers balance work and family concerns.
Leah and John, a couple living in upstate New York, both have full-time jobs. Once in a while, when John’s at work, he might worry about something related to his son or his home, but it doesn’t happen often, he said.
For Leah, it’s a different story. Even before she had her son, she said, “I would worry a lot about home repair projects, chores, and (travel for) upcoming family events” while on the job. Now, she said, she worries about “home repair projects, child care, and how to avoid travel for upcoming weddings and family events.”
Leah’s in a good company. A recent study has found that while working mothers and working fathers spend similar amounts of time thinking about family matters during the day, only mothers see their stress levels rise as a result of this “mental labor.”
“I assume that because mothers bear the major responsibility for childcare and family life, when they think about family matters, they tend to think about the less pleasant aspects of it — such as needing to pick up a child from daycare or having to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a sick kid — and are more likely to be worried,” study author Shira Offer, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, said in a statement announcing the results of her research.
Offer’s work relies on data from the 500 Family Study, which collected information from 1999 to 2000 on families with living in eight communities across the U.S. The families studied largely included highly educated individuals employed in professional occupations who worked long hours, reflecting “one of the most time pressured segments of the population,” according to the statement.
The “time pressured” challenges facing working moms also seemed to contribute to another disparity among working parents: Moms were more likely than dads to think about work concerns outside the office.
“We know that mothers are the ones who usually adjust their work schedule to meet family demands, such as staying home with a sick child,” Offer said. “Therefore, mothers may feel that they do not devote enough time to their job and have to ‘catch up,’ and, as a result, they are easily preoccupied with job-related matters outside the workplace. This illustrates the double burden — the pressure to be ‘good’ mothers and ‘good’ workers — that working moms experience.”
Samantha Ettus, a parenting and lifestyle expert and the founder of the website Working Moms Lifestyle, said she wasn’t surprised by the results of the study. Still, she argues women can make their own lives easier by asking and expecting their spouses to handle more in the way of family responsibilities.
“People tend to rise to the expectations we set for them. We need to expect more of our husbands and then also give them the information necessary to succeed,” she said. “I hear women say, ‘My husband could never prepare a lunchbox.’ Really? Did you partner up with a monkey? No. Show him how and he will do it. Maybe even better than you do!”
Dads like writer Whit Honea of Honea Express, meanwhile, say they do their fair share around the house…and still don’t stress.
“Sure, there may be some scheduling inconveniences, but nothing that keeps me awake at night,” Honea said. “There are plenty of things to worry about in this world, and soccer on a Tuesday isn’t one of them.”
So are women just more prone to be stressed about family life no matter how the responsibilities are divided? Radio host Alex Hinojosa, of News Talk Florida, thinks so.
“My wife is a ‘dweller’ while I tend to be a ‘delegator’ – which means once I do what I can or have passed it off to another then I feel it is handled until it is finally time for action,” he explained. “I’ve tried to get my wife to take the same point of view, but she can’t because all of these ‘stressors’ are constantly on her mind. It’s probably a good thing somebody is always thinking about family stuff, but I think dads — for better or worse — are better at compartmentalizing thoughts.”
Photo via morgueFile.
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