Mums, dads and time: who does what?

In 2005, 6500 household time diaries were analysed to find out how people spent their time.

A report by the Equal Opportunities Commission (now merged with the EHRC) set out how men and women divide their time between paid and unpaid work, childcare and leisure time.

Who does what?

Mums and dads still play different roles, but it's not a simple division: Mums don't just do housework and childcare, and dads don't just do paid employment.

  • We spend about the same time on childcare, paid and unpaid work as each other.

The total time we spend "working" (defined as employment, household tasks, childcare and caring) differs very little for mothers and fathers.

During the week, dads work 50 minutes more per day on average than mums, and this is reversed at weekends.

Overall, dads marginally get the least free time... or sleep...

Mums' and dads' time: the differences

At the risk of stating the obvious...

  • mums do more childcare and household work
  • dads do more paid work

However, the division is not as clean cut as it used to be. For example:

  • in a quarter of two parent families, dad did most of the childcare on at least one day a week.
  • 22% of couples with a child under 5 shared childcare during the week (with each parent doing at least a third) - this rises to 37% at weekends.
  • over half of all mothers are working in paid employment.


Mums tend to do household tasks that need doing every day. For example, at weekends, mums spend twice as much time as dads on food and household upkeep - and three times as much during the week.

Dads, on the other hand, spend twice as long as mums at weekends on construction, repairs, gardening and pet care.


For mums, a lot depends on the age of the children: those with under 5's  spend an average of 4 hours 50 minutes a day on childcare, compared with 1 hour a day for mums whose youngest is aged 12 - 14.

It also depends on whether or not she's working: non-working mums with children under 5 spend 5 hours 50 minutes on childcare. Full time working mums do 3 hours a day.

Full time working dads spend 1 hour a day on childcare activities in the week and 1 hour 40 minutes at the weekend, compared with 2 hours in the week and 2 hours 20 minutes at the weekends for full time working mums.


In families with children under 5

  • nearly 50% of mothers don't do paid work, about a third work part time and a sixth work full time.
  • less than 1 in 10 fathers are not in work and almost all are full time.
  • the culture of long hours affects fathers particularly - a third work longer than 48 hours a week, compared with 5% of working mums.

"Full time" has different meanings for mums and dads... Full time means:

  • mothers: 40 hour average working week
  • fathers: 47 hours average working week

And Dads tend to work further away from home than mums, so their commutes tend to be longer.

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