Despite the fact that men and women both feel their workload increases equally after the birth of their first child, a new study suggests that that is not true.
The New Parents Project supplied the data for the study. Participants included 182 first-time parents from dual-earning families. In general, the parents had higher-than-average education levels, both spouses had full-time careers and both said they wanted to continue to work after the baby was born.
When asked how much their workload has increased, both men and women responded that they perform at least four more hours of work each day. However, time diaries kept by each parent told researchers a very different story.
According to the time diaries, both parents overestimated their new workloads, but by different amounts. While parents felt that their workload had increased by four hours each day, the average woman’s workload was found to have actually increased by two hours per day, while the average man only added an additional 40 minutes to his daily routine.
“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 Claire Kamp Dush, co-author of the study an associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.
What made the results even more surprising was that prior to the baby’s birth, participating couples had shared in household chores on a fairly equal basis.
“The birth of the child dramatically changed the division of labor in these couples,” said Jill Yavorsky, co-author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State. “What was once a relatively even division of household work no longer looked that way.”
Researchers studied participating couples twice for the study, once during the third trimester of pregnancy and again when their babies were around 9 months old. During both of those time periods the couples each filled out a time diary which began at 4am and ended 24 hours later. Couples were asked to include any activities they participated in together as well.
Results showed that prior to the baby’s birth, couples shared in household chores on an equal level, with both showing about 15 hours of housework each week in addition to 42 to 45 hours of paid work. At that time, 95% of participants agreed that men and women should share in the child care work on an equal level.
However, after the birth of the child, men reported doing 10 hours of child care work per week and cutting back on their household chores by about 5 hours each week to do so. Meanwhile, women engaged in 15 hours of child care each week and did not cut back on their household chores. Neither men nor women reported spending any less time at their paid jobs to make up for the additional time.
Co-authored by Kamp Dush and Yavorsky, the study appeared in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.