Women Still Lag Behind Men on Leisure Time

Workplace, household and child care duties leave women with little time to themselves
A woman does laundry

While men are likely to spend more time in the office, women still get the short end of the stick when it comes to finding leisure time for themselves, new research suggests.

Each year since 2003, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking how much time Americans spend at work, as well as taking part in other activities such as household chores, caretaking activities and sports and leisure. In 2018, the year for which the most recent data was released, 9,600 adults were surveyed to determine how they spent their days.

Not surprisingly, work takes up a substantial amount of Americans’ time, with full-time workers averaging 8.5 hours of work on weekdays. Among adults working full time (typically 35 hours per week or more), men worked 8.2 hours per day compared with 7.9 hours for women.

But the time women spent outside of the office still arguably fell under the category of work, as they were more likely to be clocking hours cooking, cleaning and managing other household chores. On a given day, most women — 84% — spent some time handling household affairs, such as managing the household or doing chores, compared with 69% of men. Women also spend more time getting things done around the house, spending on average 2.6 hours on a given day doing household activities compared with 2.0 hours for men.

When it comes to actual housework or chores like laundry and cleaning, nearly half of women — 49% — spent time engaging in such activities on an average day while only 20% of men spent time doing so.

However, there were some chores that men were more likely to work on: Men tended to handle the lawn care, with 11% likely to do so on a given day compared with 7% of women. Also, while a higher percentage of women (69%) handled food preparation and cleanup on a given day than men (46%), the share of men pitching in on food prep increased by 11% since 2003.

Women continue to be the primary caretakers of children. In households with children under 6, women spent on average 1.1 hours per day providing physical care for the children, performing such tasks like feeding them or bathing them. In comparison, men spent on average 26 minutes per day caring for children.

With women picking up the slack at home, there is seemingly less time for leisure activities, the study found. On average, men spent 5.7 hours per day doing recreational activities, such as watching television, socializing and going to the gym. Women spent nearly an hour less per day on such activities, clocking in at 4.9 hours.

With women likely to carry more of the workload at home, the gender pay gap becomes even more meaningful since women often have other responsibilities that take away from the time they can spend in the workplace. If two adults in a household are working, it can be helpful to divide up the household tasks so both people are doing their fair share. Parents may also want to consider whether it makes sense for one person to stay home with the children and manage the household full time.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.