A women’s leisure style changes abruptly upon the arrival of children because she is no longer only responsible for her personal needs, but the needs of other human beings. Her time is no longer her own; she coordinates eating, sleeping, school, and homework schedules. In addition to juggling these activities, she has a marriage to sustain, as well as her own personal matters. This can be a lot for one person to handle and leaves little time for personal leisure pursuits for any mother. Mothers tend to be hard-workers, as they spread themselves thin amongst all of the children who are dependent upon them for life. This sense of duty a mother feels towards her children is so strong, many mothers may have a hard time feeling justified in taking time out of family life for leisure.
McCombs’ (1991) research tells us that the concept of “locus of control” can be referred to as “self as agent”. In other words, it is up to the individual to decide on his/her own personal endeavors; this is internal locus of control. McCombs (1991) states that “The self as agent can consciously or unconsciously direct, select, and regulate the use of all knowledge structures and intellectual processes in support of personal goals, intentions, and choices” (p. 6). He continues to say, “the degree to which one chooses to be self-determining is a function of one’s realization of the source of agency and personal control” (McCombs, 1991, p. 7). A mother, while running a household, probably does not have the benefit of feeling this locus of control that McCombs’ research explores.
We want to know if the leisure satisfaction of a woman is dependant on the number of children she has. We believe that as a woman has more children, her level of leisure satisfaction decreases.
Working hypothesis. There is a negative correlation between the number of children a stay-at-home mother has living in the home and her level of leisure satisfaction.
Null hypothesis. There is no correlation between the number of children a stay-at-home mother has and her level of leisure satisfaction.
Dependent variable. The level of stay-at-home mothers’ leisure satisfaction.
Independent variable. Stay-at-home mothers.
Definition of Terms
Stay-at-home mothers. Mothers who do not work or go to school.
Mothers. Those who have children currently living in their household under their
Free-time. Time that is free from any other obligations and familial responsibilities.
Constraint. Anything that hinders a mothers’ ability to participate in intrinsic leisure.
Satisfaction. “The fulfillment of drives, motives, needs, or expectations” (Siegenthaler & O’Dell, 2000, p.285).
Leisure. The freedom to perform activities in life, not done by obligation, but by free will.
The delimitations in our study are as follows:
1. By design, the study is delimited to stay-at-home mothers with children still living in
the home. To minimize lurking variables we have chosen not to survey working mothers or mothers who are currently enrolled and attending school at a university.
2. Our group of study will include only women who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints.
3. All of the women we are studying are married.
4. All women participating in the study must have the adapted IQ of 80 or above, due to
specifications stated on the Leisure Satisfaction Measure.
The limitations of our study are as follows:
1. A weakness in our study is location. Perhaps a mother’s leisure satisfaction is
dependant on the town in which she lives or the recreational opportunities and services around her. Leisure is viewed differently by someone living on a farm in Nebraska than it is by someone who lives in New York City. The person who lives in the city has countless options of things to go and do which are close by, while the person living in a rural setting might need more time for travel, and may not have the same programs and services available to her. This could all play a factor into a mothers’ leisure satisfaction.
Importance of the Study
This study is very important for many reasons. A study conducted by Brown, Brown, Miller, & Hansen (2001), found that “the vast majority of mothers would like to be more active,” however, “they are inhibited in their ability to act out their leisure preferences by a combination of structural (e.g., lack of time, money, energy) and ideological (e.g., sense of commitment to others) influences” (p. 139). This tells us that there are a certain number of variables that interfere with a mother finding free time to satisfy her leisure appetite, one of which very well could be the number of children that she has. Of all the people in society who need this free time, a mother should be able to fit leisure into her schedule. The balance found in a healthy leisure lifestyle is important to mothers since there are so many children in our society who are dependent upon them. If we could help pinpoint certain variables, such as the number of children a mother has, maybe mothers would be able to understand how to make more free time for themselves, and feel more in control of their personal lives.
In exploring the correlation between the number of children a mother has and her level of leisure satisfaction, one needs to understand the following concepts: leisure, leisure constraints, implications of gender in leisure satisfaction, and the transition of leisure throughout parenthood. These concepts will be covered in this chapter.
Leisure is difficult to define because it is an abstract concept. Green, Hebron, & Woodward (1990) define leisure as “endless time to pursue the pleasure of one’s choosing in the form and quantity required to satisfy personal appetites” (p. 3). The first part of this definition is that you have to have enough time to participate in leisure. You cannot be rushed because then you feel stressed and are constantly watching the clock. You must have time to do whatever you want, free of all other obligations and constraints. Interruptions and demands of others cannot be present, but rather you must have time and space for yourself. The middle of the definition explains that we must be at liberty to select an activity for it to qualify as leisure. It cannot be something we are obligated to do and it must be voluntary. To satisfy your personal needs and desires are the last implications of the definition.
Leisure is different for every person. For example, some people find reading leisure while other people find it a tedious and obnoxious task. One person may love to read because it makes them feel relaxed, imaginative, and peaceful while someone else may hate to read and would never pick up a book during their free time. While everyone views leisure differently and chooses different activities to pursue, all of the respective activities achieve the same purposes. Leisure brings people pleasure and enjoyment and satisfies the personal needs of everyone individually (Green et al., 1990).
An important characteristic of leisure is the change from normal routines and obligations of everyday living (Green et al., 1990). Life can get so monotonous doing the same general things over and over again. Some things just have to be done in order for us to go on living. We must eat, sleep, get ready, go to work, go to school, shop, run errands, and carry out our family responsibilities. Leisure gives us a chance to break away from these everyday responsibilities and do something new and exciting that rejuvenates our minds and bodies, making all the mundane responsibilities in life seem more manageable.
Leisure is important because it has many health benefits to offer those who practice it frequently. According to Siegenthaler (1997) “leisure enhances health because it serves as a buffer to life’s stressful events” (p. 24). He also said that leisure benefits health in all areas; emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, and overall well-being. Leisure improves the overall quality of life and aids in helping people cope better with life stress, and therefore, resisting stress induced illnesses (Siegenthaler, 1997). Not only does it provide opportunities to escape the daily stresses of life, leisure helps cope with major traumas (Siegenthaler, 1997). When hard things such as divorce or the death of a family member occur, leisure enables people to face the negative events in life and still be happy. Leisure can also give people a sense of purpose and accomplishment, enhance self-esteem, and decrease the effects of depression (Siegenthaler, 1997).
The work place and school are also benefited greatly by leisure. Melamed and Meir (1995) explored the relationship between leisure and well-being among technicians, lawyers, physicians, and engineers. This study found that those who participated regularly in leisure had higher work satisfaction and self-esteem, less burnout, fewer somatic complaints, and less anxiety (Melamed & Meir, 1995). Caldwell, Smith, and Weissinger (1992) conducted a study about the amount of leisure a student participates in and their levels of physical, mental, and social health. Many students were stressed trying to balance the demands of work, studies, social life, family, and their leisure pursuits (Caldwell et al., 1992). They found that those students who were well rounded in their leisure had higher rates of perceived physical, mental, and social health (Caldwell et al., 1992). Additionally, the students had greater leisure and life satisfaction. These studies show that leisure is clearly beneficial to health and life.
For the purposes of this research, we are defining leisure as the freedom to perform activities in life, not done by obligation, but by free will. We feel this is an appropriate definition for its application to motherhood.
Even though leisure plays a significant role in the life of every individual, there are certain constraints which prohibit us from fully appreciating its benefits all of the time. Crawford, Jackson, & Godbey (1991) put these constraints into three different categories: intrapersonal, interpersonal, and structural constraints.
Intrapersonal constraints, or “antecedent constraints” (Henderson, Bialeschki, Shaw, & Freysinger, 1999), are constraints which typically prevent us from participating in a particular type of leisure. For example, someone who really likes to road bike, but only has friends who mountain bike, might not end up road biking. Sometimes people bend their interests a little in one direction or the other in order to cater to the general interests of their friends or spouses. In many circumstances, people with lower self esteem will avoid certain activities that they would have otherwise really enjoyed, only to seek the approval of peers. Familial influences and attitudes could also limit an individual’s leisure options.
Interpersonal constraints involve forms of leisure which often require a couple of people to participate, and is usually a scheduling problem. Even though both people might be highly interested in the same activity, they might not be able to coordinate schedules to go and do the activity as much as they would like (Crawford et al., 1991). For example, rock climbing partners would have a hard time coordinating schedules if one participant had an office job with regular work hours, and the other waited tables at night at a popular cafe. The reduced amount of times these rock climbers could climb in a month would be categorized as interpersonal leisure constraints.
Structural constraints are defined as any other kind of constraint which does not have to do with the relationship between two people. Henderson et al. (1999) state that “lack of time, lack of money, lack of transportation, and lack of facilities or programs may prevent or reduce desired leisure participation” (p. 196). For example, a male high school student living in California who plays on the Varsity volleyball team might be disappointed, after moving, to find out that schools in Texas do not offer volleyball to males in the sports program. Children from lower-income families may not be able to ski as much as children in more affluent families. Structural constraints may be the most frustrating kind of constraints since there seems to be minimal ways of improving or eliminating such barriers to leisure (Henderson et al., 1999).
Crawford et al. (1991) explains this model for leisure constraints as a hierarchal model. In other words, in order to fully appreciate leisure, one needs to attack intrapersonal constraints first, followed by interpersonal constraints, and then deal with structural constraints last. Even though we all face these constraints at one time or another, there are ways of working through them in order to still be able to participate in leisure, whether that means addressing sub-conscious social fears, or making an honest effort to incorporate more leisure into every day life (Crawford et al., 1991).
Implications of Gender in Leisure Satisfaction
It is a common belief and generally accepted that the mother of a family is the central figure when it comes to raising children and running the household (Bialeschki & Michener, 1994). This belief often proves problematic for women, since women believe that their duty is to the family first and themselves individually, second. Husbands escape this pressure by having the breadwinner role; a duty that is easy to separate between work and personal affairs (Shaw, 2001). The research of Bialeschki and Michener (1994) proved this to be true when they found evidence that “leisure and family were often perceived as competing spheres by the mothers as their leisure decreased more than their male counterparts once full family status was accepted” (p. 67).
One way that women are sold short when it comes to their forms or leisure is that not all leisure for mothers is intrinsic. “Intrinsically motivated behavior is said to be demonstrated when people engage in an activity primary for its own sake, whereas extrinsically motivated behavior is controlled by incentives that are not part of the activity” (Flora & Flora, 1999, p. 4). Shaw (2001) points out that a lot of times, leisure for women includes some kind of work involving their kids, whether that means organizing an activity, driving to a particular destination, packing and un-packing necessary child-care items, preparing food, cleaning up, etc. Shaw (2001) also suggests that this kind of work has a high emotional toll on the mothers, since mothers are often concerned about the interactions between children and their friends, making sure every one is safe, and dealing with children who often have concerns about being away from home and familiar surroundings. Shaw (2001) states that women report feeling more stress than men when having to plan such outings. Since the mother’s role at home is to be the primary care-giver, on recreation outings or even at home, she may feel like she is “on call” (Shaw, 2001, p. 59); she could be needed at any given moment to break up a fight, respond to health emergencies, or prepare a last minute meal. That kind of responsibility is enough to wear heavily on anybody’s emotions, and does not qualify as intrinsic leisure, as defined above.
Brown & Miller (2001) conducted research proving that even though the majority of mothers are fully capable of participating in physical activities, they are inhibited by a number of “structural and ideological” (p. 139) constraints. When considering the constraints defined above, one can only imagine what it would be like planning your leisure experiences around several children. Brown & Miller’s (2001) study shows that even though mothers are showing a definite interest in finding personal leisure time, they are not getting it.
Transition of Leisure throughout Parenthood
Bialeschki & Michener (1994) discovered the concept of “Full Circle Leisure” (p. 65), and how the role of leisure goes through different phases as parents and their children grow older. Their study has a lot of implications for the nature of our own research about mothers. “Full Circle Leisure” begins when a single woman gets married and begins to have children. Her leisure at this point can no longer be self-oriented, as she will now be the primary care-giver to her children. As long as she has a child in the home, and continues to have more children, her leisure satisfaction will suffer tremendously as she battles the responsibilities of the motherhood role. As a mothers’ children begin to grow older and eventually leave the house, “the women seem to recognize a need to return to leisure experiences which focused more on self” (Bialeschki & Michener, 1994, p. 65). A return is made back to the same leisure behavior and habits that existed before, and the mother finally has the chance to participate in all the years of leisure satisfaction that she missed out on.
The study of a woman’s leisure satisfaction is very important to understand. Mothers need to have time when they can be relaxed and enjoy something that they have chosen to do. So much of their lives are bombarded with obligations and responsibilities, which may serve as constraints to leisure. Many studies have been conducted on leisure and its benefits to life and health. Our study will attempt to fill the gap in the research by exploring the relationship of the number of children a mother has and her leisure satisfaction. Since leisure creates so many health benefits we must come to understand a mother’s need for and lack of leisure time. We must understand it so that we may help mothers to satisfy their leisure needs and appetites.