Time, Work, and Family Life: Reconceptualizing Gendered Time Patterns Through the Case of Children’s Organized Activities1


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     The first author gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Spencer Foundation as well as the Grant-in-Aid Program and the Department of Sociology at Temple University and University of Maryland. The authors extend their thanks to Sandra Hofferth and Miriam Linver for providing assistance with the Child Development Supplement. The authors are very grateful to Suzanne Bianchi for her careful thoughts as well as to Aleia Clark, Robin Leidner, Demi Kurz, Marianne Cooper, Shanyang Zhao, Kim Goyette, Sandra Hofferth, Jerry Jacobs, Sara Raley, Julie Ford, Robert Max Jackson, Melissa Milkie, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts. Nikki Johnson and Sasha Sisser helped prepare the article. A much earlier version of this article was presented at the 2002 meeting of the American Sociological Association. All errors are, of course, the authors’ own.


This article considers the understudied phenomenon of children’s organized leisure as it relates to the division of labor in the family. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, we first ask whether the labor entailed by children’s organized leisure is divided evenly between mothers and fathers. Both data sets indicate that this is not the case, with the majority of the work falling to mothers; they also indicate that at least some employed mothers face a tradeoff between time devoted to paid work and time devoted to facilitating their children’s leisure. Subsequently, we consider key qualitative aspects of these leisure activities, including deadline sensitivity, authority over scheduling, and degree of predictability. These factors, we find, serve to exacerbate the inequity of the allocation of responsibility between mothers and fathers. We conclude by suggesting that organized leisure has become an important part of the familial landscape and thus warrants further attention. We also suggest that research on the gender division of labor would be enhanced in important ways by greater attention to qualitative dimensions of time use. Researchers should not simply assume that “an hour is an hour.”