Working Moms Multitask More
This latest study will likely surprise few readers. Researchers recently found that working mothers multitask more frequently than working fathers, and the multitasking experience of these moms is more negative.
Researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that working mothers spend an average of 10 more hours per week multitasking compared to working dads. Specifically, working moms spend about 48.3 hours per week doing two or more activities at once compared to 38.9 hours per week for dads. More important than this time discrepancy is the disparity between the way working mothers and working fathers feel about this. Working mothers reported negative emotions, feeling stressed and conflicted when they are multitasking at home or in public. Working fathers reported much more positive feelings when they multitask.
Researchers relied on data from the 500 Family Study, which collected comprehensive information on how middle-class families balanced family and work life in eight urban and suburban areas across the United States from 1999 to 2000. Participants included 368 mothers and 241 fathers in dual-earner families. Most were well-educated professionals who tended to work long hours, and they represented the most time-pressured segment of the population.
The way working mothers and fathers feel while multitasking had a lot to do with the actual tasks they were performing. Working mothers were more likely than fathers to engage in labor-intensive housework or childcare activities. By contrast, the multitasking efforts for fathers primarily involved talking to a third person or self-care—far less burdensome experiences. The researchers found that 53 percent of multitasking activities performed by working mothers involved housework, compared to 42 percent for working fathers. Additionally, 36 percent of all multitasking activities for working mothers involved childcare, compared to 28 percent for fathers.
Adding to the negative experience for working mothers was the fact that their activities were more susceptible to outside scrutiny, judgment, and criticism.
To improve the multitasking experience for working mothers, researchers urged fathers to increase their share of the housework and childcare. They also recommended employers and policymakers consider altering current workplace cultures so that dads can become more involved in their family’s routines and take time off for family events.