Multitasking for parents is the result of a simple math problem. There are a total of 24 hours in a day from which to subtract the number of hours spent at work, time spent traveling, and time spent sleeping. All of the leftover time is used to do household chores, take care of the kids, and to finish up the other odds and ends of life.
If we are being generous, parents have anywhere from 5-7 hours to accomplish these tasks, which should take countless hours more. Realistically, there is no way to get all of these things done without multitasking. Like most other math problems, there is a variable in this equation—gender.
A new study notes that each week, women multitask an average of 10.5 hours more than men, and end up feeling like they aren’t able to focus enough time and energy on the children and the other tasks at hand. This contributes to women viewing multitasking at home as stressful. Increased stress levels can lead to a number of medical conditions, such as obesity and heart disease, according to the study.
The underlying biology of the body’s response to stress is the same for men and women. What is different, however, is the fact that men do not find multitasking stressful. Men see their multitasking as a way to show off their abilities. According to the study, men spend 38.9 hours a week multitasking at home, and are generally pleased by this fact and their performance.
Not only is there a difference in stress, illness, and the time spend multitasking, there is also a difference in the tasks men and women chose to do while multitasking. So let’s do a slightly more challenging math problem. Men spend 80 percent as much time as women doing house and family related work. They spend 10.5 hours less of that time multitasking and experience less stress from the multitasking.
Vision 2020 is working to educate employers about family-friendly policies, which may in turn more equally distribute household duties as well.