Mums still more likely to feel under time pressure than dads

A new study shows parents are still under significant time pressure, particularly mums, parents in dual full-time earner households, parents with young children and university-educated parents.


Parents are less time poor now than they were 15 years ago, although mums are still under significantly more time pressure than dads, according to a new study.

The report by the National Centre for Social Research found that while 38% of parents reported always feeling rushed in 2001, 30% did in 2015. It also found that parents multitasked less nowadays and their time was less fragmented so they could focus more on the task in hand.

However, despite this, the study shows parents are still significantly rushed and that time pressure remains particularly high among some parents, namely mothers, parents in dual full-time earner households, parents with young children and university-educated parents.

Mums feeling time pressured

The report shows that mothers are still significantly more likely to feel rushed than fathers.  A third of mothers (33%) reported always feeling rushed, compared with just under one-quarter of fathers (24%).

The vast majority of parents felt rushed at least some of the time with only 8% of mothers and 12% of fathers reporting never feeling rushed. Mothers multitasked slightly more than fathers, multitasking 29% of their non-sleep, nonpaid work time while fathers multitasked 27% of their day. This equated to three hours and 48 minutes per day for mothers, and two hours and 59 minutes for fathers.

Mothers’ time was also more fragmented than fathers’. Mothers switched from one activity to another every 38 minutes throughout the day, excluding time spent sleeping or in paid work, while fathers switched activities every 43 minutes.  Much of this fragmentation was linked to childcare activities, with mothers spending significantly more time on these than fathers.

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The study also showed that certain families felt more rushed and pressured than others. Families where one parent stayed at home were less rushed and time pressured. Single mothers spent less time multitasking and their time was less fragmented compared with mothers in dual full-time earner households. However, they did not feel any less rushed.  Parents with children under five multitasked more and had more fragmented time compared with parents without young children. Multitasking and fragmentation were greater among parents with an undergraduate degree or higher compared with parents without a degree.

The study said parents’ work schedule flexibility was not associated with time pressure, but the researchers comment that this may be because those who work flexibly need it most and would be more time pressured if they didn’t have it. Also they did not look at working from home.

However, they state: “Our analysis, as well as that of others’ suggests that flexible work arrangements might not be a panacea for easing parental time pressure. While flexible working may afford working parents greater control over their working lives, it may not deliver a better work-life balance without being accompanied by better job design, effective organisation and management and a workplace culture that truly supports work-life balance.”

On the fall in numbers of parents feeling rushed, they note: “The decline in time pressure observed across a number of measures indicate that the substantial changes in work-family policy in the first 15 years of the twenty first century (including the introduction of funded childcare for all three- and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds, extensions of paid maternity leave, the introduction of paid paternity leave and the right to request flexible work arrangements) may have been successful in alleviating time pressure among parents to some extent. ”

The researchers conclude that time pressure is still a significant issue, particularly for certain groups, and that these may need more targeted support.

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