American families have changed significantly over the past 46 years, according to information recently published by the Pew Research Center. This report is filled with fascinating statistics that reflect rather dramatic changes in family life since 1965. Here are some key findings:
• Parents have almost doubled the amount of time they are spending with their kids, 12.5 hours per week in 1965 compared to 21 hours today. Both moms and dads have increased their child-care responsibilities, but the most significant change is for dads, who only spent 2.5 hours with children kids 46 years ago, but spend seven hours per week with them today.
Is this a good or a bad trend? Is there a right amount of time that families should spend on child-related activities? Is it possible to spend too much time with your children, at the expense of your own personal needs and your marital relationship? Most moms (68 percent) are happy with the amount of time they spend with their kids, whereas 46 percent of dads feel that they don’t spend enough time with their children. Given that dads have already increased the amount of time they spend overall, more time with the kids could only come by decreasing work responsibilities.
• About an equal number of moms (56 percent) and dads (50 percent) report that it is very or somewhat difficult to balance their work and home responsibilities. Life begins to feel like all you are doing is making lists and getting stuff done, rather than enjoying the moment. As expected, parents who report these difficulties also report an overall lower level of satisfaction with their lives.
This is a tough dilemma for families, who feel intense pressure to meet the many expectations of work and family. The most successful families are those who learn how to say “no,” placing reasonable limits on work and their children rather than striving to meet ever increasing expectations.
• The total amount of time that is spent doing housework has decreased overall from 36 hours to 28 hours since the 1960s. Moms still spend about eight hours per week more than dads doing housework, but that trend is converging.
The researchers didn’t look at what role children have in housework, but I admire families that involve their children in regularly doing household tasks. This can relieve some pressure from parents, and teach kids some valuable life skills. I really like the message this sends to children. Parents are not there to serve them, but families need to work together to get things done.
Parents know that life is about making choices and achieving a balance that works for them. Successful families achieve that equilibrium by communication, compromise and an acceptance that you can’t have everything you want.
Next week: 6 secrets to a happy marriage!