They worry they don't spend enough time with their kids. They're worn out by just how much they have to cram into their days, juggling work with loading the dishwasher, driving to tae kwon do practice, supervising homework and planning the Girl Scout camping trip.
This isn't just Mom anymore. This is Dad.
Fathers with children younger than 18 are about as likely as mothers to say they feel pressed for time and have difficulty balancing the demands of work and home, according to a major report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
Modesto resident Eric Pylman knows there aren't enough hours in the day. The Sherwood Elementary School teacher and father of eight children between 20 and 6 says that sit-down family meals at home are something enjoyed only in the gaps between youth football, soccer and baseball seasons. Now that Bel Passi baseball has begun, and he's coach of one team and assistant on another, "we start eating at the ballpark for dinner or grabbing tacos or a couple of pizzas."
"We didn't do any soccer or football last year for the first time in 13 years," he said. "It was nice to have that time off. ... But we'll have soccer coming again for at least two in the fall."
Pew reports that far more fathers, 46 percent, say they feel they aren't spending enough time with their children compared with 23 percent of mothers. Although fathers' time with children has tripled since 1965, fathers still spend only about half as much time with their children, on average, as do mothers. The Pew Research report found that fathers also are less likely than mothers to think that they're doing a good job as a parent.
'Can't find enough time'
Pylman is among those who thinks he doesn't spend enough time with his children, at least not enough one-on-one time.
"The big thing for me is that if we're doing something en masse, there's not enough of me to go around, and I'm sure my wife (Cindy) feels the same," he said. "With all the kids, it seems like we can't find enough time because we're always putting out fires."
Quality time with the children individually, or close to it, is something he tries to make time for. He has three children who attend Sherwood, and they often do their homework in his classroom after school as he prepares for the next day. Thursday, Pylman even put the children to work helping him move from a portable classroom back into his remodeled permanent classroom. Maybe not what the children would call quality time, but they appeared to be having fun riding on the cart he was using.
Pylman, 50, has been a teacher at Sherwood for 21 years and is glad to have a job that's conducive to having family time. Teaching isn't the in-at-8 a.m.-out-at-3 p.m. job that some people might think it is. There are weekly after-school staff meetings, prep time and other demands. "But you learn to work smarter, not harder, as you get older and more seasoned," he said.
Time-use studies have found that fathers have been gradually increasing time spent on children and chores.
Being home more may have made fathers feel closer to their children and more conflicted about the amount of time spent away from them, said Kim Parker, associate director with the Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends Project. She and other researchers wrote the report after analyzing a recent survey of 2,500 adults and nearly 50 years of time-use data from the Labor Department's American Time Use Survey and other reports.
"It might help explain this yearning to spend more time with them," Parker said. "And now that they're more aware of all that goes on in the home, dads may feel more of an obligation to take part. Before, it wasn't their concern, it was all taken care of. And now that mom's working, it is."
Making big changes
Or, in the case of Jack Shoptaw, now that he's divorced.
For years, Shoptaw, who lives in Charles County, Md., was the provider. He worked late, traveled all the time, and left the children and housework to his stay-at-home wife. Then his marriage fell apart amid financial difficulties.
"I was about to be the every-other-weekend dad, and I panicked. I didn't want to be that kind of dad," said Shoptaw, who runs his own real estate firm. "I had to change my life."
He began flexing his work schedule so he could take 13-year-old Isabelle to dance lessons and 10-year-old Reese to sports practices. He now cooks dinner and stays up late doing laundry.
"I'm 100 percent stressed. But I feel like I have a relationship with my children now. I know them," he said. "Before, I thought I did, but I was fooling myself."
In dual-income families about 60 percent of all two-parent households with children younger than 18 mothers' and fathers' roles are slowly "converging," the Pew Research report found. Although fathers still spend more time at work and mothers spend more time juggling work and home chores, handling not only twice the child care, but twice the housework, their total workloads are similar: 54 hours a week for fathers to 53 hours for mothers.
Although the overwhelming majority of fathers say working full time is best, nearly half also said that if they could swing it financially, they would rather stay home with the children than work, the Pew Research report says. An equal number of mothers have long answered the question the same way.
"That, to me, is shocking," Parker said. "We don't have trend data on that because no one's ever asked dads the question before."
Bee Local News Editor Deke Farrow contributed to this report.