Studies Say Dads Get More Leisure Time, Moms Say ‘No Kidding’

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shutterstock_143771857__1382193388_142.196.156.251A group of studies show that dads on average have about three hours more leisure time a week than moms. This phenomenon is referred to as the “leisure gap.” We totally have this leisure gap in my house. I’m pretty sure it’s my own fault, though.


… our analysis of the 2010 ATUS data finds that fathers with children under age 18 in the household on average spend about three hours more leisure time than mothers (27.5 hours per week vs. 24.5 hours per week).

Our analysis of this data shows that mothers find their leisure time to be more meaningful than do fathers. Mothers rate 63% of their leisure activities “very meaningful,” while fathers give a similar rating to about 52% of their leisure activities.Meanwhile, mothers feel more exhausted than fathers during their leisure time, and their stress level associated with leisure time is higher as well.

Confession time: I always feel like I’m doing more around the house and that I have less free time than my partner. But I have to admit – this is my own fault.

I have always been very type A when it comes to organizing the house. I can’t relax when there are dishes in the sink or laundry that needs to be done. The problem with this is – there are always dishes in the sink or laundry that needs to be done. My husband would be happy devoting a day or a certain allotted time to these activities. He’ll always get them done – just not as swiftly as I like them done.

So – I end up doing it. I’ve always been this way. In college, I was the roommate who cleaned up after everyone. I never had a problem with it. I always felt that I was the one who had to live that way – no one else had a problem with things being a little dirty for a time.

I totally relate to feeling a little stressed out during my leisure time as well. Whenever I get away, I always put myself on an imaginary time-clock. My husband constantly offers to hold down the fort with the kids so I can get away more. I don’t take advantage of this as much as I should.

So yes – my man has more leisure time. But honestly, it’s my own fault.

(photo: wavebreakmedia/ Shutterstock)


  1. Katie L.

    October 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    I’m amused by this because I’m currently watching football and cruising the internet while my husband putters around the house. I however did the bulk of kid wrangling earlier today so I feel justified in my leisure right now.

    I think a lot of women have a constant “to do” list in their heads which is (one of the many reasons) why we end up with less leisure time. Even as I sit here I am thinking about the laundry I need to do and the tiding up that needs to happen.

  2. GenerikErik

    October 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    No, the studies don’t “Say Dads Get More Leisure Time.” The studies find that *on average* dads get more leisure time. That’s a huge difference in meaning and a mistake in coverage that popular press and blogs make all the time. It’s not an oversimplification; it’s a misstatement. I know I sound nit-picky in pointing this out, but saying something is true of dads is an essentialist argument that we should be careful using, especially when talking about gender difference, especially in a blog that attempts to dispel or at least examine afresh misconceptions about gender difference.

    • Allie

      October 20, 2013 at 11:41 am

      It’s only the headline that says “studies say…” In the very first line of the piece, the words “on average” appear. Yes, it’s a site examining misconceptions about gender difference, but headlines are headlines. They’re designed to be attention-grabbing and draw the reader in. Personally, I hate the way headlines (including the one in question) always use comma splices. But there’s not much I can do about it. It’s part of the genre. I agree media need to be accountable for the way they report on studies, but in this case your indictment is a bit harsh.

    • GenerikErik

      October 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      I agree, emphatically, that the problem is the headline. But that’s a big problem. It undermines the analysis that follows. The same is true of stock photos on the web. See this story in the current Atlantic Web page for an example of a stock photo that does just as good of a job undermining the author’s point as a misleading headline:

    • ll

      October 21, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Hmmm… but just last week Mommyish writers (I’m looking at you Maria) were angry at a misleading/unclear headline on Slate. She specifically says that authors should be comfortable putting their names next to their headlines (that they don’t even pick out).

  3. Edify

    October 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Is it your fault you feel this way or are you (and I) a product of being raised in a world where these were still women’s roles in the home? I think our generation has a housework hangover that wasn’t resolved during the women’s lib movement of the previous generation. The challenge is to not pass these tendencies onto our daughters and not our sons.

    • Maria Guido

      October 20, 2013 at 11:15 am

      You are so right about trying not to pass it on. I think my obsession with housework comes from having a mom that worked so hard (she waited tables like 70 hrs a week) I really wanted everything to be in order and easy for her when she got home. The behavior stuck.

    • Edify

      October 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      Your mother is amazing.

  4. jendra_berri

    October 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    I take 3-5 hours every Saturday for myself while my husband cares for our baby. And that’s after sleeping in. I made my leisure a huge priority, and I get it on the regular. My husband gets time to himself, too. For example, this evening he’s at a bachelor party.

    I’m not terribly invested in housework, though. I’m okay with mess for awhile. My husband creates most of it, and eventually will clean it. I just have to wait.

    • Allie

      October 20, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Great in theory, but won’t work for me. I’m still breastfeeding and she just wants mama. She can only last about an hour or so before she starts wailing and then there’s nothing for it but me. I can’t enjoy myself knowing she’s at home crying unconsolably, so I just don’t bother with “me” time right now. I know things will get better eventually as she gets older.

    • jendra_berri

      October 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      Yes, this would be not possible for you currently. I bottle feed. Breastfeeding doesn’t allow for much me time for moms. It truly is very hard work, convenient in many ways and healthy, but undeniably a sacrifice. I tried so hard to breastfeed, but when it failed, I decided to embrace all the benefits of formula, which are very mom-centric in nature. One of those benefits is freedom. Despite my sadness over the loss of a BF relationship with my baby, I’ve come to love formula feeding for this reason.

    • Allie

      October 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Trust me, BF’ing is not some mystical, magical, supernatural experience with your kid. That’s just lactivist rhetoric. It’s food and it’s bloody hard in some ways and incredibly convenient in others, but the truth is formula is virtually just as good (provided you have access to clean, safe water). The only scientifically proven benefits of breast milk are fewer ear infections and fewer bouts of diarrhea. Despite being exclusively breastfed for 6 months and continuing to BF while learning to eat solids, my LO has still caught 3 head colds so far. I am soooo looking forward to being done with BF’ing. The only thing holding me back is I don’t know any other way to get the little gal to sleep!

    • Rachel Sea

      October 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      There are about 25 conditions whose risks are lessened by BFing, including diarrhea and ear infections.

    • Allie

      October 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      Only the reduced risk of ear infections and diarrhea are well-supported on the evidence. The other benefits are, in many cases, only supported by one or two small studies and the results have not been confirmed or there are other problems with the data or the interpretation of same. A prime example, the IQ study. It did not take maternal IQ into account and when the data was reevaluated with this in mind the extra IQ points supposedly gained by breastfed babies disappeared. The only thing the study proved was that there is a correlation between maternal and infant IQ, not that breastfed babies have a higher IQ, as reported by the media. Breastfeeding certainly is beneficial for babies, but it is by no means the end all and be all of good mothering and formula is a perfectly reasonable choice for mothers who have access to clean, safe water and basic medical care.

    • Rachel Sea

      October 22, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      Off the top of my head, the increased risk of asthma, allergies, respiratory infections, and necrotising entercolitis are also well supported. I know there are others but don’t feel like looking them up.

      Formula, for most healthy infants in the developed world, is perfectly fine, but there are increased risk factors which makes formula inadvisable for some.

    • jendra_berri

      October 21, 2013 at 7:37 pm

      One breastfeeding mom I meet up with each week had the same issue with her 8 month old son. I can tell you what she did to get her BF baby to sleep without being nursed. Rather than have breastfeeding be the last thing in the bed time routine, she did it before the bath. It worked. He was still breastfed, but didn’t need it to actually fall asleep.
      I have no idea if this would help you or not, but I thought I would pass it along for your consideration.

    • Allie

      October 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      I’ll try anything!

  5. Felix

    October 20, 2013 at 3:23 am

    It’s rarely worth the nagging to get my husband to clean up, i just end up more stressed, he really doesn’t do it right, and he’s been caught messing up on purpose to get me to do the work. he assumes he’s entitled to be away from the kids, where i feel the need to ask him. Not to mention- Breastfeeding, so it seems like after i go through the trouble to secure time for myself, it’s either cut short, or means i only get time away from one of my kids. (I still love bfing more than free time)

    • G.S.

      October 20, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      Now, this is just me, but I could never be with a man who would pull that, “I’ll just leave it all for wifey to clean up/deal with” crap. To me, it’s RIDICULOUSLY disrespectful (and sexist!), and is a total deal-breaker, right on par with cheating. I mean, seriously, I’m not the mother of his pseudo-five-year-old ass, he can clean up his own damn mess like a full-grown adult!

  6. pontificatrix

    October 20, 2013 at 8:36 am

    I reject this trope that women bring excess housework on themselves by having high cleanliness standards. I have pretty low standards but wherever they are, my husband will still undercut them. We’ve had standoffs over a given mess he made and did not clean up that have lasted 5+ days (actually several months in one case). Every day I’m like, “It’s still there!” and every day he’s like, “I’ll do it!” In the end I always end up doing it because however low I drop my standards, he can always wait me out. Eventually I will need to use the area where he left the mess.

    • Maria Guido

      October 20, 2013 at 11:18 am

      I’m not saying all women do – I’m saying I do. The situation you just described would drive me over the edge. I’m not happy about my constant need for cleanliness – but it’s there!

    • pontificatrix

      October 20, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      I guess I just see this idea floated a lot by peoples on the internetz – that it’s Teh OCD Wimmenz with their Unattainable Housecleaning Standards that cause the discrepancy between male and female time spent on household chores. All I can say is, that is not what is going on in my house.

    • Simone

      October 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      I think this is a good point – that men’s standards for household management are relational. They are often determined by women’s standards and as you say, in practice this often means they are set a little lower than women’s with the result that women get pissed off, resentful, end up doing it themselves AND THEN also blaming themselves for the situation. As far as I can see, the unpaid labour of housework and childcare will always be a feminist issue.

    • pontificatrix

      October 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      An excellent point, but it raises the question of *why* the men’s standards are relational. Isn’t the need for a minimally organized living space pretty basic?

      In my case, the reason I lose the waiting game follows from the fact that I already do most of the cooking and laundry. If he leaves a mess in the kitchen, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the mess will get in my way long before it gets in his way.
      Then again, the reason I do most of the cooking and laundry is that if feeding/clothing kids were his job he would totally feed them takeout all the time and buy them new underwear when they ran out. So maybe it’s my higher standards in other areas that lead to my having to carry the cleanliness as well despite my low standards there.


    • Rachel Sea

      October 21, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      I had a roomate like that. Eventually I moved his dirty dishes onto his bed so that I could get to the sink. Didn’t have to do that more than once.

    • pontificatrix

      October 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      I have threatened to do just that actually. Unfortunately we do share a bed (at least at times), and if I did remove the mess to his side of the bed and go sleep somewhere else (the guest room, or bunk with the kids) myself he would almost certainly just do the same. I am 100% positive he would sleep on the couch rather than clean the mess and change the sheets. 🙁

  7. Allie

    October 20, 2013 at 11:22 am

    They needed a “study” to come to this astounding conclusion? What the hell?

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