Equal division of labor at home for working parents? Not exactly

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Story highlights

  • Report finds 54% of working parents say moms do more in scheduling kids' activities
  • More than half of working moms and dads say balancing work and family is difficult, it says

Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns, and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN)As I write, I'm remembering how today is the deadline for winter basketball registration for my girls (and I haven't signed them up yet) and how I need to text the babysitter in case my daughter, who went to bed with a fever, can't go to school in the morning.

My dear husband does a ton in our household, especially when it comes to spending time with our girls, but the majority of the planning and scheduling of our children's activities falls on my shoulders.
    As a working mom, I am definitely not alone, according to Pew Research Center's latest survey on parents and work-life balance.
    In nearly half of two-parent households -- 46% -- both parents now work full time, a significant jump from 31% in 1970, the report found. And while most parents in households where both the mother and father work said there is an equal division of labor when it comes to household chores, disciplining the kids and playing or doing activities with the children, there is still a gender divide.

    'He said, she said' at home

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    Fifty-four percent of these working parents said the mother does more to manage children's schedules and activities, according to the survey of 1,800 U.S. parents with children younger than 18. Forty-seven percent also said mom does more when it comes to taking care of the children when they're sick.
    But ask working moms and working dads about the division of labor in their household and you are likely to hear different perspectives about just how much they each do, according to the "significant gender gap" found in the report. Sixty-four percent of mothers in two-parent households said they do more than their spouse or partner when it comes to managing their children's schedule and activities while 41% of fathers said they share things equally.
    "There's definitely bit of a 'he said, she said' story here with moms saying they do more and dads saying that they share parenting and household responsibilities about equally, and that's true in all different two-parent households regardless of work arrangements," said Juliana Menasce Horowitz, associate director of social trends research for Pew Research Center.
    "The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. ... Maybe moms are doing a little bit less than they say that they are doing; maybe dads aren't sharing as much as they say they do."
    Monica Sakala, her husband and their two girls, ages 6 and 9
    Monica Sakala, a mother of two girls, works full time from home running SOMA Strategies, her social media consulting business, while her husband, who heads up accounting and finance for a law firm, tends to travel a lot at certain times of the year.
    Since she's more of the planner, she said she tends to do more of the scheduling for their girls, ages 6 and 9. Her husband pitches in on making lunches for the girls when he's in town and when she has to leave early for workouts or appointments.
    "There is certainly an ebb and flow," said Sakala of Kensington, Maryland. "And there are days where I'm frustrated because I feel like too much of it is falling on my plate, but I think that's just how we work it out and he'll feel like he's very involved and participatory."

    'Your mind is spinning'

    Stress is not just an issue solely for mothers, according to the report. It found that 56% of all working parents said balancing work and family is difficult. That stress affects their experiences as parents, the report found. Of the working parents who said the juggle is difficult, 32% said being a parent is stressful and 39% said parenthood is tiring.
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    "We know from this survey that whether or not it's hard to balance work and family responsibilities has an effect on the way you are experiencing parenting and how enjoyable, rewarding, stressful you find it," Pew's Menasce Horowitz said. "And parents are having a hard time balancing, and that's especially true for mothers."
    Sakala said when she is having trouble with all the competing demands on her, it affects her focus when everyone is home.
    "There's a level of distraction when your mind is spinning and you're thinking of all these other things. You're not fully present at the dinner table, and I think the kids know that and then that feeds more into the stress," she said.
    The work-life balance challenge is also affecting working parents professionally -- but working mothers more than working dads. Forty-one percent of working mothers said being a parent has made it harder for them to advance in their career versus 20% of working fathers.
    Sakala said she believes parenthood has definitely had an impact on her career. She ended up leaving a position that didn't offer her the flexibility she needed when her second child was born. She then started a blog, blogged for a magazine and eventually put together the business she now runs working on issue-based social media campaigns in the health and education areas.
    "Do I think I could have a higher profile position with a large company or a trade association at this point? Yes, but the children in my life have also changed what my former self thought I wanted to be," Sakala said.
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    That doesn't mean she doesn't from time to time question her work choices, she said.
    "There are days where I am utterly grateful that I can be at the bus stop most afternoons," she said. But in a sign of how things are changing, she is now the only mom at the bus stop in the morning, Sakala said. All the other parents dropping off their kids are dads.

    What mothers and fathers want

    Working fathers, in the report, made it clear they would like more time with their children. Half of full-time working dads said they spend too little time with their kids compared with 39% of full-time working moms.
    And as for feeling rushed and like you have no time for anything else, there doesn't seem to be any gender gap for moms and dads.
    Eighty-six percent of mothers and 81% of fathers said they feel rushed at least sometimes, and 59% of full-time working mothers and 53% of full-time working fathers said they don't have enough time away from their children to get together with their friends or pursue hobbies and other interests.
    Sakala can relate. She tries to make it a point to work out early in the morning and to schedule dinners with girlfriends every two months or so, but those don't happen as often as she would like.
    Her idea of "dream Monica time"? That's easy, she said: "A weekend with no schedule, quiet time to read and relax and no obligations to make meals!"
    Do you think the division of parenting responsibilities for working mothers and fathers has changed much? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Parents on Facebook.