We've reached a new milestone in the effort to gender-neutralize the division of household labor: fathers are now just as stressed about not having enough time to bond with their children as mothers are. Parenting stress, at long last, is really becoming gender-blind.
This is the most significant finding from a hefty report released last week by the Pew Research Center. Fathers with children under the age of 18 are now feeling the pressure that mothers have felt ever since women started entering the workforce in large numbers, or, more specifically, ever since advertisers started recognizing a working-mother trend and decided to shame moms about their woeful inability to balance work responsibilities with family time. "Here, you stone-hearted she wolf — buy a frozen dinner for your neglected child." Now, thanks to a trend of more fathers taking on more child care duties, fathers are being gripped by even more acute parenting insecurities.
The time fathers spend with their children has tripled since 1965, though it's still only half as much time, on average, as mothers spend their children. What's changed, according to the new data, is that far more fathers are expressing their frustration at not getting more kid-time: 46 percent, compared with 23 percent of mothers. The ironic reason for this dramatic disparity in parental self-loathing? Fathers are logging more time with their kids than ever before:
Being home more may have made fathers feel closer to their children - and more conflicted about the amount of time spent away from them, said Kim Parker, associate director with the Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends Project. She and other researchers wrote the report after analyzing a recent survey of 2,500 adults and nearly 50 years of time-use data from the Labor Department's American Time Use Survey and other reports.
"It might help explain this yearning to spend more time with them," Parker said. "And now that they're more aware of all that goes on in the home, dads may feel more of an obligation to take part. Before, it wasn't their concern, it was all taken care of. And now that mom's working, it is."
Pew's research also notes that, in dual-income families, mothers' and fathers' roles are slowly but surely "converging," and though fathers still log more time at work than mothers, paternal and maternal (professional) workloads are pulling about even:
Although fathers still spend more time at work and mothers spend more time juggling work and home chores - handling not only twice the child care, but twice the housework - their total workloads are fairly similar: 54 hours a week for fathers to 53 hours for mothers.
Yeah, so even though mothers in two-parent, two-income households are still, on the whole, outworking fathers, fathers are complaining about work/family balance more vociferously. That does, however, seem to bode well for prospects of even more progress in the division of household labor — fathers are starting to be held (or hold themselves, anyway) to the same ridiculous standards of perfection when it comes to being a flawless working parent.
Image via Elena Yakusheva /Shutterstock.