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Chris Thomas, a work-at-home dad in Alexandria, Va., shopped with Elijah, the youngest of his three children. Thomas, a personal trainer, schedules clients around the schedule of his wife, Kerby, a teacher. He said they have both struggled to find an identity in “uncharted territory” and have had to work to redefine their roles.

Matt McClain • Washington Post ,

Balancing act

46 percent of fathers say the aren’t spending enough time with their children

23 percent of mothers who say they’re not spending enough time with their children

50 percent of working fathers who say it’s very or somewhat difficult for them to balance work and family

56 percent of working mothers who say that

Caught between work and home, more dads say they're unhappy

  • Article by: Brigid Schulte
  • Washington Post
  • March 14, 2013 - 8:54 PM

 

They worry they don’t spend enough time with their kids. They’re exhausted by just how much they have to cram into their days, juggling work with loading the dishwasher, driving to taekwondo practice, supervising homework and planning the Girl Scout camping trip. The pressure is relentless.

This isn’t just Mom anymore. This is Dad.

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.

‘I’m 100 percent stressed’

“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, Va., a lobbyist, talking on his cellphone during his commute to work in the District of Columbia 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, involved in Boy Scouts and ferries kids to ice skating lessons and baseball practice. “I tell people that the easiest part of my day is going to work. ... 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 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.

Parker said, “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, Md., was the provider. He worked late, traveled, and left the kids and housework to his stay-at-home wife. Then his marriage fell apart. “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.”

He began flexing his work schedule so he could take daughter Isabelle, 13, to her dance lessons and son Reese, 10, to sports practices. He now cooks dinner and stays up late doing laundry. “I’m 100 percent stressed. But I feel like I have a relationship with my children,” he said.

‘That, to me, is shocking’

In dual-income families — about 60 percent of all two-parent households with children younger than 18 — mothers’ and fathers’ roles are slowly “converging,” the Pew Research report found. Although fathers still spend more time at work and mothers spend more time juggling work and home chores — handling twice the child care and twice the housework — their total workloads are fairly similar: 54 hours a week for fathers to 53 hours for mothers.

Although the majority of fathers say working full time is best, nearly half also said that if they could swing it financially, they’d rather stay home with the kids than work, the report said. An equal number of mothers have long answered the question the same way. “That, to me, is shocking,” Parker said. “We don’t have trend data on that because no one’s ever asked dads the question before.”

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