Not being in that category myself, I can’t say much more than that about the lives of working mothers, but what grabbed my attention was the method used to reach this conclusion.
First, here’s the part that I think makes sense:
Rather than ask people to estimate how much time they spend on certain activities per day or per week, those taking part in this research were asked to keep time diaries, logging in detail all the stuff they were doing during a 24-hour period, so that later the researchers could allocate the activities to the appropriate categories and arrive at a real total of how many minutes the person actually devoted to e.g. housework, childcare, work at whatever their job is, shopping, cooking, watching TV, commuting, etc. I think this makes much more sense than asking people for an estimate, because it’s unlikely that a person will have a good objective idea of how much time they spend on each of these things.
But where I think their method is lacking is in the either/or attitude to the use of time. The article gave a list of activities that this sociologist files under “leisure activities” and others that are filed under “non-leisure activities”, and these lists include stuff like:
Shopping – under non-leisure, no matter what kind of shopping you’re doing. which is ridiculous considering that so many women do regard shopping as a fun and enjoyable pastime, something they do just to cheer themselves up a bit. (No, I’m not talking about wheeling your trolley round a supermarket, I’m talking about treating yourself to new clothes or makeup or a handbag or whatever – or, if you are me, letting yourself loose in a stationery shop…)
Personal grooming – again, they place it in the non-leisure category. Can you honestly tell me that for the average busy working mother, having a manicure or a facial is not a wonderful bit of me-time snatched in between her errands?
On the other hand, volunteering is placed in the leisure section. Huh?
And keeping fit is in the leisure section, even if you hate exercise.
At least with reading they show a bit more discernment, and say reading is under “leisure” but not if you’re reading work stuff.
But with childcare, they lump everything you do with your kids under “non-leisure”, even if you’re having loads of fun, even if you’re just taking them along to something you enjoy doing, or using them as an excuse to play…
And commuting is placed clearly under non-leisure, but from what I remember from my commuting days, it was a mixed bag – though some of it was certainly stressful (London Underground in the morning rush hour), some of it was a great chance to unwind on your way home after a day’s work, reading the newspaper or a book and basically not having to do anything from the moment you got on the train and sat down to the moment you got up at the end of the journey.
I think if you want a real picture of how people use their time, you need to allow for certain time slots to go under more than one category. The trouble is, of course, you’d end up with a total of more than 24 hours per day… But seriously, I’ve always had a problem with these sorts of approaches to recording use of time – they’re fine when you’re doing a clear-cut job, when you’re focused on a specific task at each given moment, but trying to apply that to women at home… sorry, how do you record those minutes when you’re talking to a friend on the cordless phone whilst cooking a meal?
not to mention that some activities are restful/relaxing/recharging for one person, and a chore for another. if your husband loves tennis and insists you go play every weekend, does this count as leisure time for you? if you have an annoying neighbour who keeps popping round for a cup of tea and a chat, do you have to file that under “leisure” because you are sitting down and having a cuppa and socialising? and then, on the other hand, say you actually have a job that involves doing the stuff you love doing – is that strictly work time?
I don’t find life is quite so black and white.