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9to5to9: Wondering where the other 21.3 hours go

Submitted by on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 No Comment

Want to make your mama mad? Ask her what the hell she did all day.

Mine lives 3,000 miles away and not within striking distance, so I might risk it.

The question’s been on my mind since I ran across this little statistic — source was a 2005 study that strangely enough was not authored by Phyllis Schlafly — in the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Networked Family” report.

“Between 1965 and 2005, the amount of time mothers spend every day on housework (including cooking, cleaning, outdoor chores and repairs, and household paperwork) has decreased from an average of 4.6 hours to an average of 2.7 hours, while the amount of time spent by men rose from an average of 0.6 hours to 1.7 hours.”

Only 2.7 hours? That barely gives me time to track down the dirty socks scattered around the house, let alone load them in the washer. Or to rifle through me purse and mutter “I know that receipt’s in here somewhere” when it comes time to figure out finances.

And I could have sworn I was in the kitchen from 2 to 5 this afternoon, which by my math tops 2.7 hours right there. OK, today was a little different because I baked the week’s snacks and had to replenish the pizza crust supply. But it was a representative Monday, even when I was working full-time at something that paid.

But wait. I did stop to flash drive Big Guy’s first “essay” from the guys’ computer to mine — because Mean Mommy won’t spring for a printer.

It was a half-page beauty. He hunted and pecked his way through his “sight” words and capped it with a spell-binding sentence: “We see a firefighter going to a fire.” I’m dying to read the sequel. What fire? Was anyone hurt or did it turn out to be a “cat up a tree” call?

I had to spell two and a half of the words for him, though, and none of that time counts.

The 2.7 hour figure statistic comes from the 2005 text book, “The Economics of Women, Men and Work.” I haven’t read it and, at $101, I’m not likely to until I have time to wrangle the guys to the library. Oh. What am I saying? I have 21.3 hours a day to get that done.

From what I can gather based on the synopsis on the Barnes & Noble Web site, the 2.7 hours doesn’t include time spent with children. Studies in the late 1980s put a working woman’s combined household/childcare load at 25 hours a week. Still, that’s only 3.5 hours a day.

I must be terribly inefficient. I bet I’m counting some work on my time card I really should punch out for.

Is “child care” the actual time supervising their bath to make sure one doesn’t drown the other, or does it include the half hour it takes to herd them to the tub?

Is it just the time Big Guy spends on homework — brilliant essay not included — or the time it takes to bludgeon him into sitting down at the kitchen table and picking up his pencil. And keeping his grip on it instead of chucking it at me.

Can I count an hour a day spent watching “Avatar,” a show I actually like? Or is it only work if I’m hog-tied in front of “SpongeBob“?

Do I have to clock out during reading time if I’m trying to separate four hands slapping at each other across the pages? Wage and hour law is unclear on this point.

But back to the original question: What the hell did Mom do all day?

Well, she ironed pillow cases — no kidding. I’m pretty sure I have an iron somewhere, because Big Guy mentioned it the other day. “What do you do with it?” he asked. “I used to use it to make T-shirts,” I replied.

And she kept the house white-glove-inspection immaculate. I vacuum once a week or so, when I can con Big Guy that it’d be a fun thing for him to do.

And she processed food from the garden that saw us through many a winter.

And she did it all in 4.6 hours a day?

I’m not buying that, anymore than I’m buying the 2.7 hour domestic load for today’s working moms. But let’s keep throwing that number into reports, so we can make this parenting thing sound like a low-maintenance hobby.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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