It could be that women do more house chores than dads, or that moms take on more than they could handle. Whichever it is, guess what -- you're on point.
A new study that involved analyzing 12,000 parents' diary entries found that parents generally enjoy being with their kids. We're not surprised by that fact. However, "the bad news is that mothers enjoy it less than fathers because they do more 'work' and less of the 'fun,'" says Ann Meier, researcher from the University of Minnesota. Why is this so?
Researchers from Cornell University, the University of Minnesota, and Minnesota Population Center examined the types of parenting activities mothers and fathers performed and their individual well-being during the activities, and they came up with several reasons for the above:
1. Moms perform more difficult parenting tasks than dads. From discipline to manners to study habits, moms usually take the lead role. And when you've got office work and household chores to worry about as well, it doesn't leave much room for fun play. In the paper published in the American Sociological Review, Cornell professor and study co-author Kelly Musick says, "Mothers are doing different things with their children than fathers are, things that we know aren't as enjoyable. Playing with their kids is a particularly enjoyable experience for parents. And dads are doing more play as a share of the total amount of time they spend with their kids."
What you can do: Involve your kids in these non-enjoyable tasks. Even young kids can help sort the laundry or clean up. Make tidying up a game with the kids -- you'll get a few extra hands to help, while you get to teach them to be independent early. Stop obsessing about stuff you can't control. "When I found out from the yaya that my daughter said, 'Mom never plays with me like dad does,' I freaked out. I was never fond of kids to begin with, but this is my child. I should make extra effort in spending good times with her than just making sure her baon is healthy or that her clothes are well-pressed. That was an eye-opener for me. The dirty dishes can wait. The floor doesn't have to be squeaky clean 24/7," says Filipina mom-of-two Lisa Rey. Be in the moment with your kids, laugh and play with them. These are priceless moments -- never mind the mess.
2. Moms multi-task more than dads. "When mothers are with their kids, they are more often by themselves," Meier says in the same study. And when you're left alone with your kids, you end up multi-tasking more as opposed to dads, who "are more likely to have other adults around, offering some back-up. This helps us understand why fathers are less stressed when with kids," she adds. Moms have perfected the art of multi-tasking -- sometimes at the expense of their own well-being.
What you can do: Stop spreading yourself too thin. Learn to delegate and do so early, starting with your husband. Involve dad in childcare duties as early as when the baby arrives. He might not have a mother's instinct, but he can learn from you. "I encouraged my husband to help with baby care duties early on, so I don't have a problem leaving the kids alone with him, which should be the case as he is their dad. He may do things differently from how I do them, but as long as it gets the job done, then that's okay. Well, sometimes I re-do them if it's not up to my standards, but only if I have time to spare," says Bernice Lazona, mom of two. You might be surprised that with your guidance (note: guidance, not nagging) they can do a good job at it, too.
3. Moms get called on by their kids more often that dads. A popular Internet meme comes to mind: When kids are searching for something in the house, they relentlessly ask their mom, yet when Dad is the only one around, the only thing they ask him is, "Where's mom?" It's both funny and endearing at the same time, but the reality is that it can also take a toll on your sanity. "Mothers are more likely than fathers to be called on by kids 'round the clock.'" Meier says, adding that this results to less sleep or downtime for moms. "Fathers' sleep and down-time are less likely than mothers' to be interrupted by kids. This is part of the reason fathers are less tired than mothers when parenting," Meier explains.
What you can do: Set aside time for self-care -- and yes, that might involve getting out of the house if it's impossible to get a good 30 minutes of alone-time. Do things you love and for yourself. Find a new hobby, or take a new course to improve your skills. "My husband and I talked about this and that I'd need time for me to be able to finish my master's degree in hospital management, just in case we decide to put up a clinic in our province. I take three nights off a week for my classes and my husband and the kids know I am not to be disturbed when I'm in my corner of the house. I give it my full attention, so I can also give my full attention to my kids outside of my study time," says Esper Jimenez, mom of two. Even just a short spa session or coffee with your girlfriends helps a lot to take a breather. You need it -- no, you earned it.
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This study, which was published in the American Sociological Review, is both a warning and a call to action to adapt new habits that would make parenting easier and ultimately more enjoyable for every mom. Remember the phrase, "Happy wife, happy life?" You may be a superhero in the eyes of your children, but you need to take care of your human needs as well.