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How parents used their time in 2021

July 22, 2022

On an average day in 2021, parents spent most of their time engaging in personal care activities, such as sleeping and grooming; working and doing work-related activities; and doing leisure and sports activities, such as watching TV, socializing, and communicating. Parents whose youngest child was younger than age 6 spent the most time caring for their children and other household members as a primary activity (2.5 hours per day), while parents whose youngest child was ages 13 to 17 spent the least amount of time doing so (32 minutes). Parents whose youngest child was ages 13 to 17 spent more time doing work and work-related activities (5.3 hours per day) and engaging in leisure and sports activities (4.4 hours) than did parents with children under age 6 (4.3 hours on work and work-related activities and 3.4 hours on leisure and sports activities).

Average hours per day parents spent doing primary activities, by age of the youngest household child, 2021 annual averages
Activity Youngest under age 6 Youngest ages 6 to 12 Youngest ages 13 to 17

Personal care activities, including sleeping

9.24 9.45 9.30

Working and work-related activities

4.34 4.98 5.34

Leisure and sports

3.44 3.70 4.41

Caring for and helping household members

2.49 1.17 0.53

Household activities

2.01 2.16 1.97

Eating and drinking

1.17 1.13 1.14

Purchasing goods and services

0.62 0.70 0.70

Parents spent more time with younger children. During their waking hours in 2021, mothers spent 7.5 hours and fathers spent 5.3 hours per day with children under age 6. Caring for and helping household children and other household members as a primary activity accounted for the largest share of mothers’ time with children under age 6 (2.7 hours); fathers spent about 1.6 hours with younger children during these caregiving activities. Mothers and fathers also spent time with their children while engaging in leisure and sports activities, such as watching TV and socializing. While engaging in leisure and sports activities, parents spent 1.9 hours per day with their children under age 6, 1.7 hours with children ages 6 to 12, and 1.4 hours with children ages 13 to 17.

Average hours per day parents spent with their children, by age of household child and selected activities, 2021 annual averages
Activity and age of child Mothers and fathers Mothers Fathers

Total time, all waking hours

0 to 5 years

6.49 7.51 5.32

6 to 12 years

5.05 5.71 4.24

13 to 17 years

3.43 3.80 2.99

Leisure and sports

0 to 5 years

1.89 1.92 1.86

6 to 12 years

1.71 1.73 1.67

13 to 17 years

1.40 1.43 1.36

Caring for and helping household members

0 to 5 years

2.16 2.68 1.56

6 to 12 years

1.23 1.49 0.92

13 to 17 years

0.47 0.56 0.36

Household activities

0 to 5 years

0.85 1.22 0.43

6 to 12 years

0.76 1.02 0.44

13 to 17 years

0.49 0.68 0.27

Eating and drinking

0 to 5 years

0.83 0.83 0.82

6 to 12 years

0.71 0.71 0.70

13 to 17 years

0.60 0.63 0.56

These data are from the American Time Use Survey. For more information, see “American Time Use Survey — 2021 Results.” We also have more charts on American Time Use Survey data. All times refer to primary or main activities. The charts do not show secondary childcare—times when parents had at least one child under age 13 in their care while doing something else as their main activity.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, How parents used their time in 2021 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/how-parents-used-their-time-in-2021.htm (visited November 28, 2022).

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