The Second Shift

Testing what we know from watching our mothers in the data

Aditi Roy Bhowmick
2 min readSep 14, 2022

Today, I came across this poignant twitter thread where a daughter recounts her working mother’s “second shift” and that to make things worse, her mother’s commute time was longer as well.

My mother works, wakes up at ungodly hours and pays a steep price to maintain her trade outside the household. This is not only an India story. The mental load shared by women worldwide — by mental load I mean keeping track of groceries, daycare appointments, meal planning, and assigning household drudgery tasks to spouse — is shared to a greater degree by women.

I pulled up the Time Use Survey 2019 data.

I was so ready to see a difference in commute time based on the twitter thread, but I don’t see it in the sample.

But, there are two related compelling visuals I want to share.

Before I share them, non-trivial data details.

The sample: Urban, 23–55 year old, men and women engaged in “salaried/wage labor” as their primary occupation. They are all married. The N is = 20,303 individuals in this sub — sample.

As you would expect, these urban working women sleep fewer hours than husbands.

PS: I dropped 55+ folks on purpose because of age-induced sleeplessness.

X axis unit = Hours

If that graph made you go, yeah, whatever. Look at the distribution of time-spent on domestic drudgery (the International Classification of Activities for Time-Use Statistics calls it “Unpaid domestic services for household and family members”).

I want to break down the drudgery hours further to see what portion of domestic drudgery explains those token ~2 hours spent by males in these couples… but I’m brain-fried so will do it another day.