Changing Families, Pressured Families

Changing Rhythms of American Family Life Cover

Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, (by Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson and Melissa A. Milkie), winner of two American Sociological Association section awards, examines changes in U.S. mothers’ and fathers’ time allocations across four decades. The book includes a cross-cultural comparison of parents’ time with children in six nations. Changing Rhythms also focuses on parents’ feelings about time and how these are embedded in a culture of intensive mothering and involved fathering.

An important and surprising finding in our book has to do with mothers’ time spent in childcare, which has actually increased over the same period in which mothers entered the paid labor force in unprecedented numbers. Mothers prioritized time with children, dropping housework, time with spouses and in leisure to maintain this. Mothers also multi-tasked more. Indeed the employed mother in the year 2000 spent about the same amount of time in childcare as did the homemaker mother of 1975. Mothers’ total time in the presence of children stayed roughly the same over this period.

Married fathers’ time spent on childcare, both routine and interactive, increased greatly in the latter part of the 20th century, as did their total time with children.

Many of my publications center on time in work and family roles and its implications for family members’ mental health and well-being. There are many pressures on employed mothers and fathers that are not easily reconciled in the U.S. and some other nations, with few workplace or state supports. The pressure of feeling time deficits with children is related to worse mental health and well-being for mothers and fathers.

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