Parents say time with their kids makes than happier and it's more meaningful than their time on the job. But caring for the kids is more exhausting than their paid jobs.
It's no surprise that parents with kids under 18 say caring for their children is more exhausting than their paid jobs.
But even so, parents say time with the kids makes them happier than time at work. And they says it's more meaningful as well, according to a new analysis of federal data by the Pew Research Center.
The analysis is based on 2010 data from time-use diaries compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the first time, the 2010 data included measures to gauge the emotional state of the respondents during their activities, which Pew uses in its analysis.
"We know a lot about how parents' roles have changed and how today both moms and dads balance work and family, but what we don't know is how they feel during various activities. This data set answers that question and gives us a very accurate recording of exactly how they feel," says Wendy Wang, the Pew report's author.
Of the 4,822 adults, ages 18-64, participating, child-care activities are tops as the most tiring. Of activities rated "very tiring," child care leads the list at 12%, compared with 5% for both paid work and leisure. Housework comes in between at 7%.
Parents report that they are "very happy" in 35% of their child-care activities, compared with 19% of their paid work. Happiness levels during child care are only slightly lower than during leisure (41%). Parents also report feeling somewhat less stressed during their time with children than during their time at work.
"We often hear about parents complaining that child care is very stressful, but we find as an activity, only 3% is very stressful," Wang says.
By contrast, as activities, housework and paid work rank at the top as "very stressful" at 5%, with leisure at 4%.
Pew finds that moms report feeling more tired than dads, especially in caring for the kids. They report feeling "very tired" in 15% of child-care activities, compared with 6% for dads. Mothers also report a higher level of fatigue than fathers did in paid work, (7% vs. 4%) housework (8% vs. 1%) and leisure time (7% vs. 2%).
The Pew analysis also finds that mothers spend more time than fathers in child care-related activities, with the largest gender gap in physical care, such as changing diapers or feeding or dressing a child (5.2 hours a week for mothers vs. 2 hours a week for fathers).
Overall, 62% rate their child-care experiences as "very meaningful," compared with 36% for paid work.