Parenting is exhausting, but less so for dads. And it isn’t because they are doing less than their fair share. Even dads who split the parenting duties equally with their spouses are happier and more well-rested.
Today, fathers are more involved than ever before. Childcare was once thought to be a feminine duty, while dads should be off bringing home the bacon. Today we have more dual-income families, but even men whose wives stay home are spending more time with their children.
One might suppose that with all the extra support, moms are less stressed. However, mothers are just as tired and overwhelmed. Dads on the other hand, are having a pretty great time. Researchers at Penn State shed light on why.
Dads are happier and less stressed than moms because the type of childcare they tend to do is different. While moms generally take on responsibilities like feeding children, putting them to bed, helping with homework, making appointments, and transporting children, dads tended to play games or sports while on duty.
Dads also usually cared for children on the weekends, while moms generally took on middle of the night feedings. Lastly, moms parented solo more often, while dads parented with other adult caregivers present.
The study shows us that while dads are more involved than ever before, parenting is still highly gendered. It is difficult to say exactly why. Gender does make a difference in some cases, such as with breastfeeding. In other cases, the researchers were not sure whether parents consciously chose their roles or whether cultural norms simply prevailed.
Both genders found childcare to be equally meaningful. One might suppose that mothers see taking care of children as more meaningful than men do, but the research indicates otherwise.
The research team understands why moms are more stressed and less happy than dads, but they are still unsure why moms are more tired. We are pretty sure we know.