Are you a dual income middle-class household with multiple children?
If so, read this revealing article from The New York Times, which I have basically cannibalised here because I find it so fascinating so maybe no need to click over, and then tell me do you recognise yourself here? Because I sure do.
From 2002 to 2005, before reality TV ruled the earth, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles<http://www.ucla.edu/>, laboriously recruited 32 local families, videotaping nearly every waking, at-home moment during a week
And here is what they found –
- mothers spend 27% of their time doing housework
- fathers spend 18% of their time doing housework (not sure how this compares to same sex couples even though they were included in the study)
- children spend 3% of their time doing housework (and giving allowances made no difference)
- partners/husband & wives were together alone in the house about 10% of their waking time (I can so attest to this one – we have spent almost every night together in the same house since having children and I have never missed him more!)
- the entire family was together in one room about 14% of the time
- in spite of increasing stress levels families spent very little time in the “most soothing, uncluttered area of the home” – the backyard (I wonder where our deck figures in this calculation: inside or outside – we spend a lot of time there).
- the couples with the least stress were the ones with the most rigid divisions of labour, regardless of gender equality (one father is quoted as saying “She does the inside work, and I do all the outside, and we don’t interfere” – might explain why she also is likely to be doing about one and a half times the amount of domestic labour that you are doing, buddy – not only is there less outside work but outside work tends to be less immediate and constant ie. you can leave fixing the back gate for another day but whoever is in charge of feeding the kids has to do it right now).
- mothers spend 19% of their time talking with family members or on the phone
- fathers spend 20% of their time talking with family members or on the phone
- mothers spend 11% of their time as ‘leisure time’
- fathers spend 23% of their time as ‘leisure time’
- mothers spend 34% of their time alone with their children
- father spend 25% of their time alone with their children (although half of the fathers spent as much, or more time as their spouse did alone with at least one child at home)
- fathers were more likely to be engaged in an activity with their child while mothers were more likely to be watching TV with a child (making up for some of their lost leisure time perhaps?)
And some excellent quotes from the article to describe modern family life:
“I call it the new math,” said Kathleen Christensen of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which financed the project. “Two people. Three full-time jobs.” Parents learned on the fly, she said – and it showed.
In weekly meetings, the researchers discussed what they were witnessing.
“Every time we met, I felt like I was on the defensive,” said Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, the research director, who herself has two children and a working husband. “I mean, it’s not like I approved of everything these parents were doing. But I could relate to them. I knew exactly what they were going through.”
Continual negotiations, for one. Parents generally were so flexible in dividing up chores and child-care responsibilities – “catch as catch can,” one dad described it – that many boundaries were left unclear, adding to the stress.
“The coordination it takes, it’s more complicated than a theater production,” said Elinor Ochs, the U.C.L.A. linguistic anthropologist who led the study. “And there are no rehearsals.”
These cortisol profiles provided biological backing for a familiar frustration in many marriages. The more that women engaged with their husbands in the evening, talking about the day, the faster their cortisol dropped. But the men’s levels tapered more slowly when talking with a spouse. (A previous generation’s solution: “cocktail hour”).
Inside, the homes, researchers found rooms crammed with toys, DVDs, videos, books, exercise machines; refrigerators buried in magnets; and other odds and ends. The clutter on the fridge door tended to predict the amount of clutter elsewhere.
Outside the homes, the yards were open and green – but “no one was out there,” said Jeanne E. Arnold, a U.C.L.A. archaeologist who worked on the study. One family had a 17,000-square-foot yard, with a pool and a trampoline, and not even the children ventured out there during the study.
Oh, so much to say about all this, where to begin?