Often, even when parents get enough sleep, they still feel exhausted. While a variety of factors could contribute to this, fractured and unfocused leisure time might be to blame.
New York Times columnist Jessica Grose took a look at some of the sources of parental exhaustion, like poor sleep quality, not enough time for sleep, and so on. She was surprised to find that even parents who no longer had small children waking them up at night and were getting (what appeared to be) adequate sleep still felt exhausted.
While some of that can be explained by the idea of “time pressure” (i.e., the intense demands of parenting create exhaustion regardless of the amount of sleep you get), this part of the article, in which Grose shared what she learned from Leah Ruppanner, a sociology professor at the University of Melbourne, caught our eye:
“Finally, Ruppanner has a theory she has not yet studied, but that makes a lot of intuitive sense to me: Parents may feel exhausted because the quality, not just the quantity, of their leisure time has diminished. There is research showing that parents take less leisure time than non-parents, and that mothers take less leisure time and have more fragmented leisure time than fathers do. But Ruppanner theorized that even time parents are reporting as leisure is actually used productively. For example, parents aren’t just watching TV, they’re also folding laundry and filling out school forms and thinking about the grocery list (that good ol’ mental load).”
By extension, the argument is that reclaiming leisure time and focusing on enjoying it (without “justifying” it by also doing laundry) is a way to decrease stress and exhaustion.
For parents who are looking for a guilt-free reason to fully indulge in their favorite leisure activity without supplementing the time with a basket of folded towels, it’s a compelling argument.