How working couples adjust to becoming parents for the first time? To have an answer for this question, a long-term study was done by Ohio State University.
Researchers identified 182 couples for the study. Participants tend to have higher-than-average levels of education and both have jobs.
When asked directly, both thought their own daily workloads had increased by more than four hours after their child was born.
A different story was kept told through a detailed time diaries of the new mothers and fathers. Both spouses overestimated their increased workload. The time diaries showed women’s workloads increased by two hours a day, while men’s total working time each day increased by only about 40 minutes.
“Women ended up shouldering a lot more of the work that comes with a new baby, even though both men and women thought they added the same amount of additional work,” said co-author of the study Claire Kamp Dush, associate professor of human sciences at the Ohio State University.
The results were shocking because before the baby was born, these couples were sharing household chores relatively equally. “The birth of the child dramatically changed the division of labor in these couples,” co-author of the study Jill Yavorsky from the Ohio State University noted.
“What was once a relatively even division of household work no longer looked that way,” Yavorsky noted.
The couples were studied twice – once during the third trimester of pregnancy and then again when their babies were about nine months old.
Results showed that after the arrival of their child, men did about 10 hours a week of physical child care while, women did 15 hours per week.
The more “fun” part of parenting, such as reading to the baby and playing, is called child engagement. Men spent about four hours per week in child engagement, while women spent about six hours.
One explanation for women’s increased post-parenthood workloads compared to men has been that they are spending less time at their paid jobs. However, this study didn’t find that. Neither men nor women had significantly decreased the number of hours spent at their paid jobs, the results showed.
So, what’s the reason behind the change?
The study appears in next month’s issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.