Last year, a team of researchers added a novel twist to something known as a time-use survey. Instead of simply asking people what they had done over the course of their day, as pollsters have been doing since the 1960s, the researchers also asked how people felt during each activity. Were they happy? Interested? Tired? Stressed?
Not surprisingly, men and women often gave similar answers about what they liked to do (hanging out with friends) and didn’t like (paying bills). But there were also a number of activities that produced very different reactions from the two sexes — and one of them really stands out: Men apparently enjoy being with their parents, while women find time with their mom and dad to be slightly less pleasant than doing laundry.
Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist working with four psychologists on the time-use research team, figures that there is a simple explanation for the difference. For a woman, time with her parents often resembles work, whether it’s helping them pay bills or plan a family gathering. “For men, it tends to be sitting on the sofa and watching football with their dad,” said Mr. Krueger, who, when not crunching data, enjoys watching the New York Giants with his father.
“And not only is time with Mom and Dad filled with running errands but with being told how much everything has disappointed them AND that they’re ashamed to know that I’ve moved in with my boyfriend of only six months. But no, not Carl. When he gets to the house dad offers him a beer and says ‘do you know when the Pats kick off?’ And I’ve got 20 things to do at work, and my idiot assistant is too busy talking to her mindless friends on the phone about which celebrity they saw at Tenjune the night before. And the damn cable man is four hours late, and it’s somehow my responsibility even though I only watch Grey’s and America’s Next Top Model. This is not fair!” Anyway, we’re pretty sure we see why women are unhappier with their daily activities than men are.