John P. RobinsonAmericans today have plenty of time for leisure, says Professor John Robinson. Robinson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland and Director of the Americans’ Use of Time Project.

What [Robinson] does not dispute is that people think they have no time. “It’s very popular, the feeling that there are too many things going on, that people can’t get in control of their lives,” he says. “But when we look at people’s diaries, there just doesn’t seem to be the evidence to back it up. It’s a paradox. When you tell people they have 30 or 40 hours of free time every week, they don’t want to believe it.”

Time-diary data show that Americans, on average, work fewer hours than they did 20 years ago. Americans so stressed out that they’re sleeping less? Wrong. Time diaries show a fairly constant eight hours over the last four decades. Mothers coming home from work to the exhausting “second shift” of housework and child care? Working mothers spending less time with their children than at-home moms did in the 1960s? Everyone too busy for leisure time? Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Finding leisure time, Robinson says, is an act of will. Once, he kept his own time diary and found he worked 72 frantic hours in a week. “I was not living the kind of life I wanted,” he says. “So I changed.”

The Test of Time:
A busy working mother tries to
figure out where all her time is going
by Brigid Schulte