The Washington Post

Mothers multi-task more and resent doing it, study finds

“I think you like testing yourself to see how much you can squeeze into a day,” my husband has said to me on more than one occasion.

And, on more than one occasion, his hypothesis has added another item to my day’s things-to-do list: argue with husband.

Now, I have some empirical evidence that my constant multi-tasking is neither a personal proclivity nor an enjoyable practice.

A new study has concluded that mothers generally multi-task more than fathers and — this is key — their experience of multi-tasking is significantly more negative.

In other words, mothers tend to juggle more tasks more frequently even though they find juggling more stressful.

“The gender gap in multitasking was not only related to how frequently fathers and mothers multitasked (we found that mothers multitasked, on average, about 10 hours more a week than fathers), but it was also related to the contexts in which they were likely to do so,” concluded the researchers of “Revisiting the Gender Gap in Time-Use Patterns: Multitasking and Well-Being among Mothers and Fathers in Dual-Earner Families,” [pdf] published in this month’s American Sociological Review.

The researchers followed about 600 middle-class working parents. Their conclusions seem to confirm certain stereotypes: men juggle professional tasks more, women juggle household chores and childcare more frequently. Fathers tend to spend more mental energy on work-related issues and women on thinking about time constraints.

Neither mothers nor fathers reported much joy in multi-tasking, but mothers were far more likely to report negative feelings about home-based multi-tasking — which is where they do most of their juggling.

Researchers hypothesized that the negative feelings are related to cultural pressures for mothers to be more fully-engaged in a child’s upbringing and household management. Since they also multi-task more publicly, researchers said, they are more apt to feel criticized or judged.

Also, the researchers’ suggested that working mothers endure “contradictory ideological pressures” that leads them to feel more conflicted than fathers about which tasks should take priority.

What do you think? Are you a multi-tasker?

Does it bring a sense of accomplishment or negative feelings? Why?


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.