Parents surveyed in a recent study by the Pew Research Center said that even though raising children is difficult, they look forward to spending time with their kids more than doing their paid jobs. Not only does it make them happier, they find it more meaningful.
The analysis is based on 2010 federal data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from diaries of 4,822 parents, ages 18 to 64. Among the activities rated as “very tiring” are childcare at 12 percent, followed by housecleaning at 7 percent, and paid work at 5 percent. Parents reported feeling happier when caring for children at 35 percent than at paid work at 19 percent, and also reported feeling less stressed while caring for their kids.
This new research is exciting because for the first time, it measures the emotional state of the respondents. Wendy Wang, the author of the Pew report, said, “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."
In news that won’t really surprise many moms, women report feeling more tired than men. Why? Because they are doing more of the childcare. They report feeling "very tired" in 15 percent of child-care activities, compared with 6 percent for dads. Mothers also report a higher level of fatigue than fathers did in paid work, (7 percent versus 4 percent) and housework (8 percent versus 1 percent). Could this be because the Pew analysis also finds that mothers spend more time than fathers in child care-related activities, with the largest gender gap occurring during physical care such as diaper changing and feeding?
Even if that is the case, it seems like moms think all that hard work pays off. Sixty-two percent of moms rate their child-care experiences as "very meaningful" compared with 36 percent for their paid work. What’s that they say about the “toughest job you’ll ever love?” We think they were referring to the Army, but being a mom comes close!