All Hail Supermoms!
According to a University of Maryland study, contemporary mothers spend more time tending directly to their kids than mothers did 40 years ago, even though more women work outside the home today. In 1965, for example, mothers spent 10.2 hours per week focused directly on kids (feeding them, playing with them, etc.). Now they spend more than 14 hours a week, the study reported. The findings are included in the book "Changing Rhythms of AmerToday's women sacrifice housework, free time and sleep, and they "multitask."
And yet, the study's lead author predicts that guilt will rule the ladies' roost:
They should find comfort in the findings, "but they won't," predicted Suzanne Bianchi, the study's lead author and a native Iowan. "No matter what, they still feel guilty."
The University of Maryland has long been doing fascinating work on the changing ways in which Americans actually use their time. A decade ago (christ!), I interviewed Terrapin scholar John Robinson, coauthor of a great book called Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time, which found, among other things:
Americans average about 40 hours of free time per week. That's a gain of almost one hour per day since 1965. This is time apart from work, meals, personal grooming, child care, sleep, etc. It's time spent on sports and recreation, with TV, radio, and movies, reading for pleasure, and hobbies. But when people are asked how much leisure time they have, their median estimate is about 16 hours a week. In fact, less than one out of five American has fewer than 20 hours of free time a week.
Another surprise has to do with what we call "more-more" behavior. For instance, people who have personal computers in their households don't read fewer books, magazines, or newspapers than people without PCs–they read more. The cliché that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person, has a great deal of truth to it.