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Leisure Brings Little Relief to Busy Moms

Study finds that, unlike men, they still feel pressured

SUNDAY, Feb. 19, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Kicking back during free time does wonders for men's mood, but might not ease the strain for busy wives and moms, a new study shows.

"Among mothers, free time may be too entangled with caregiving to be the 'pause that refreshes,'" study co-author Liana Sayer, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said in a prepared statement.

Even during their free time, women may be more responsible than men for meeting the needs of their children, she said.

Reporting in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, Sayer's team analyzed time diary data from two U.S national surveys conducted in 1975-1976 (708 people) and 1998-1999 (1,151 people).

Men who had more free time said they felt less pressured than men with less leisure time. However, even when women had more free time from paid work and household chores, they said they didn't feel any less rushed.

According to the researchers, the findings suggest that women -- particularly mothers -- may still feel the pressure of household and childcare duties even when they do have leisure time.

"The meaning of free time for men's and women's lives are quite different," Sayer said. "Especially for wives and mothers, it appears free time is still combined with other activities or responsibilities."

In effect, women pay a "family penalty," she said.

Sayer noted that the study found that married men with children felt no more rushed in their daily lives than single men without children. But married women with children were 2.2 times more likely to feel sometimes or always rushed, compared to single women with no children.

"It's not that women don't enjoy spending free time with their children, but it is a different experience than spending time with friends. To ease time pressure, women need more free time that is not combined with other activities or responsibilities," Sayer said.

More information

The American Medical Association has information about the stresses of parenting.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Jan. 25, 2006
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