Taking on the Second Shift: Time Allocations and Time Pressures of U.S. Parents with Preschoolers


The term "second shift" from Hochschild's (1989) classic volume is commonly used by scholars to mean that employed mothers face an unequal load of household labor and thus a "double day" of work. We use two representative samples of contemporary U.S. parents with preschoolers to test how mothers employed fulltime and married to a full-time worker (focal mothers) differ in time allocations and pressures from fathers and from mothers employed parttime or not at all. Results indicate focal mothers' total workloads are greater than fathers' by a week-and-a-half, not an "extra month" per year. Focal mothers have less leisure, but do not experience more onerous types of unpaid work, nor get less sleep than fathers. Focal mothers feel greater time pressures compared with fathers; however, some of these tensions extend to other mothers of young children. Finally, these families may be engaged in fewer quality activities with children compared with families where mothers are not employed fulltime.