Research by The Leisure Trends Group in its LeisureTRAK Report shows that on average, women today have more leisure time than they did in the 1990s. Women's average leisure time has increased from 3.3 hours a day in 1990 to 4.2 hours in 2003.
Mothers with children under 18 report having just 3.5 hours a day, or 1 hour and 20 minutes less leisure time than do women without children at home. This may be due to stay-at-home mothers' perspective on what constitutes work and leisure. They view activities related to home or family as work, as their job, whereas some mothers who work outside the home may categorize these activities as leisure because they occur away from their paid job.
The LeisureTRAK Report further indicates women are unhappy with their amount of available leisure time. Women in the prime mothering years of 25 to 35 rate their availability of leisure time as 5.8 on a 1 to 10 scale. Women 35 to 44 rate it even lower, at 5.5. Compared with women of all ages, women in these two age ranges report spending the least amount of time socializing. Only 16% of 25- to 34-year-olds and 13% of 35- to 44-year-olds say they socialized during the previous day. This runs counter to most women's strong desire and need to socialize with friends, and it may be a factor in why women ages 25 to 44 acknowledge the highest level of stress in the history of the LeisureTRAK Report. The research shows that these women -- especially mothers -- are in dire need of stress relief and outlets for socializing.
The research also indicates that many women today are content to stay at home and make it the center of their lives. They are becoming more self-indulgent, seeking leisure, which includes socialization, outside the home. For many, indulgence has become a reward for all the family, household and professional responsibilities they shoulder.
These trends, combined with the need women have (especially stay-at-home mothers) for leisure, socialization and stress relief, create the opportunity for well- designed children's edutainment centers and similar venues to become a retreat. Stay-at-home mothers can go there to relax, meet and socialize with friends and enjoy small indulgences such as a latte while their children are absorbed in play.
Editor's note: In upcoming issues, we will feature more articles on how use of leisure time and attitudes about it are changing in contemporary society.