Aside from my tongue-in-cheek research round-up, I generally refrain from posting about the latest working-mom study. Most of them give me a general feeling of discomfort, subtly pitting stay-at-home moms against working moms and giving us moms in the workforce a way to ease our conscience or stand a little taller and say “See? We ARE doing it better!”
If you’ve followed me for any length of time you probably already know this, but for those of you that don’t I’ll clarify my position.
I don’t think there is a “better.” I do believe that working motherhood can be done incredibly well, but I admit that it can also be done incredibly poorly. But you know what? I also believe the same is true of stay-at-home motherhood. Above all, I believe that we should all strive to do it well wherever we are. Because that’s what’s best for our children.
But anyway, now that I’m off my soapbox, I’ll tell you what I came here to say.
Over the weekend there was a flurry of Mother’s Day articles. One linked to another and I found myself captivated by the idea that today’s parents (in a time when more moms than ever are in the workforce) spend more time with their kids than moms in 1965 (when way more mothers stayed home). This reminded me of a little nugget of information that I have run into several times but never followed up on – while stay-at-home mothers spend more hours in general with their children, moms in the workforce tend to spend more quality time with their kids because they are more cognizant of their limited time and want to make the hours they do have count.
Now, don’t shoot the messenger because I know every family runs things their own way, and I’m about to blow holes in the whole thing anyway. Read on!
So many working-mom studies and articles alluded to the quality-time “fact” that I finally decided to see if I could find its source. Aside from more little mentions here and there, I couldn’t find anything concrete. Other than this small little non-random, non-scalable graduate thesis neither Bing nor Google (which of course are the best tools available to locate research-based, peer-reviewed, professionally published material *sarcasm*) could help me find anything to hang my hat on.
Studies that I did find tended to show that stay-at-home moms spent more time on housework than working moms (duh), suggesting that working moms prioritize their non-work time and intentionally let housework slide to make up for being away and spend time with their kids. Or maybe we just live in filth. However, even some of those well-done studies came up short for me. The average stay-at-home mom spends 20 hours a week on childcare. Does anyone else see a flaw in that math?
Anywho, like the research, I guess I have no conclusion. The idea is just fascinating to me, and apparently it has been for a long time. A few years ago I kept a “time journal” to track my quality time with Conlan and also wrote about how I make “quantity time” into “quality time.” So I guess, anecdotally, I do think there is a grain of truth in the quality-time theory – as working moms we feel like we need to make our time count. But since I’ve never been a stay-at-home mom, I certainly can’t say that we feel the need any more than they do. Life in general needs to be lived intentionally or else it just slips on by and we wonder what happened.
On another note, I’ve seen some great pictures of working motherhood on my 31 Days of Working Motherhood Project. Come on over and join us – help us capture what working motherhood really looks like, quality time and all!