Dads relax more than mums of their days off

Mum's have little relaxation time.
Mum's have little relaxation time. Photo: Shutterstock

It's a study we hope nobody wasted too much money on because we could have told you this ourselves. Researchers have found fathers are more likely to relax on their days off work, while mums tend to spend their days off doing housework and taking care of the children.

Duh.

The New Parents Project study, published by Ohio State University, documented the activities of 52 couples. Most were highly educated and dual-earner households, and all had recently had their first child.

The study found women relaxed for 46-49 minutes on their days off, while their male partners spent 101 minutes relaxing.

The couples completed time diaries for a work day and a non-work day – both during the final trimester of their pregnancy and then about three months after their baby was born. What they found was that "the amount of time women and men spent doing housework and child care was more equal than on non-work days, although women still did slightly more work."

But it was on non-work days that the disparity really opened up. Men spent 47 minutes on leisure activities when their partner was pregnant, and 101 minutes after their baby was born. So basically, life is more relaxing for men after their child is born.

Which is weird because from my memory of having tiny humans living in my house, I'd say that three-month period after they're born is one of pretty intensive work, compared with when they were minding their own business inside my uterus.

The study also found that when men do spend their time doing housework and caring for their children, their female partner is often right there with them, helping out.

"It's frustrating," Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study, said. "Household tasks and child care are still not being shared equally, even among couples who we expected would have more egalitarian views of how to share parenting duties."

Admitting that the study only included a small sample size, Claire said, "We need to look into this further and understand how dual-earner couples are sharing housework and child care." After all, Claire said, "these highly educated couples where both parents have jobs would be the ones you would expect to have worked out equitable arrangements for sharing housework and child care."

Of course, this isn't the case in many households. And there are a lot of fathers out there who step up and take on just as much work as their partners. It could also be the case that some mothers need to learn how to step back, relinquish control and relax. But this study shows there is still a long way to go before true equality in the post-birth household is a reality.