Writing for the Institute for Family Studies on Wednesday, Thomas O’Rourke highlights key findings from the American Time Use Survey – a measurement tool used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that calculates how people spend their time across the day.

O’Rourke, who is a policy researcher and writer studying social capital, economic mobility and anti-poverty policy, sets his sights on how much free time single people and married people have available to spend.

Not surprisingly, single people have more time – one hour and ten minutes, on average. The survey also found that married people spend 90 minutes of their day caring for others compared to single people who spend just 7 minutes.

How they spend their respective free time is also revealing. Those who are single and childless spend 63% alone while those who are married spend just 37% on solo activities.

Apart from leisure availability, the data also reveals that married people spend more time on household chores and less time socializing and relaxing.

Yet – and here is the kicker – despite a significant daily disparity in available free time, married people are almost twice as happy as single childless Americans.

It seems the carefree lifestyle so regularly touted and championed in popular culture as a pathway and elixir to endless mirth and merriment is a myth.

Mothers and fathers will resonate with these findings – or perhaps be reminded that even on challenging and exhausting days, pouring into a spouse and rearing children provides men and women with an incredible dose of meaning, purpose and satisfaction.

Back in 1959, marketers seeking to sell homes in America’s first large-scale retirement village in the Arizona desert coined the term “The Golden Years” to try and paint a picture of what a carefree lifestyle could look like. The two-million-dollar development advertised the possibilities and potential for blissful days of golf, tennis, shuffleboard, and swimming in cool water under the warm sun.

Marketers looking to appeal to retirement or senior citizen-aged customers correlated leisure with happiness. Over 100,000 people flocked to the Sun City model community the first weekend alone. It was a huge hit. Other developers followed suit in other parts of the country.

There is nothing wrong with leisure or retirement communities. But the research confirms you don’t have to wait till your retired to enjoy the “Golden Years.” That’s because if you’re married and have children in the home, you’re rich in multiple ways.

As a happily married father with three boys still living under our roof, these are true “golden years” for my wife and me. Ronald Reagan famously said, “There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.” Most any husband or father will wholeheartedly affirm such sentiment.

Since I first became a father back in 2005, I can’t tell you how many friends and acquaintances urged my wife and me to treasure the days and years with our children. We were told that because time goes all too quickly, and because children grow all too fast. One of the more startling statistics is that by the time your children turn 18, you’ll have, on average, spent 95% of all the time you’ll ever spend with them.

There is no stopping the march of time, but it’s the wise mother and father who treasures and cherishes the time with their children that’s been gifted to them. You can’t bottle it – but you can enjoy it and give thanks to the Lord for the years granted.

In the end, the very best use of our time is with people we love doing things that God has called us to do.


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