Fathers with children younger than 18 are now about as likely as mothers to say they feel pressed for time and have difficulty balancing the demands of work and home, according to a major report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
Although mothers and fathers feel the strain, stressed fathers are unhappier about it.
Far more fathers say they feel they aren’t spending enough time with their children: 46 percent, compared with 23 percent of mothers. Although fathers’ time with children has tripled since 1965, fathers still spend only about half as much time with their children, on average, as do mothers. The Pew Research report found that fathers are also less likely than mothers to think that they’re doing a good job as a parent.
“Do I feel rushed? Oh, tell me about it. I don’t feel like I give everyone a fair shot at my time. And of course, all three of my kids want it at the same time, and they’re not old enough to be patient and wait,” said Neal Snyder of Alexandria, a lobbyist, talking on his cellphone during his commute to work in the District after dropping his three children off at two schools. Because his job is more flexible than that of his wife, an executive at an association, he is often the go-to parent.
Snyder, whose own father’s home duties tended to the more traditional grilling and mowing, is a Girl Scout-certified camping adult and has the owl pin to prove it. He’s also involved in Boy Scouts and ferries kids from after-school care to ice skating lessons and baseball practice. “I tell people that the easiest part of my day is going to work. And the hardest part is the hour and a half in the morning and the three hours in the evening at home. Being a parent is the hardest job I have. But I wouldn’t change it.”
Time-use studies have found that fathers have been gradually increasing time spent on children and chores.
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.”
Or, in the case of Jack Shoptaw, now that he’s divorced.
For years, Shoptaw, who lives in Charles County, was the provider. He worked late, traveled all the time, and left the kids and housework to his stay-at-home wife. Then his marriage fell apart amid financial difficulties. “I was about to be the every-other-weekend dad, and I panicked. I didn’t want to be that kind of dad,” said Shoptaw, who runs his own real estate firm. “I had to change my life.”