In a baby’s first three months, dads were enjoying a relaxing time while mums were doing housework or caring for their child. Picture: biohomecares.com

London - In the modern era, many would expect new fathers to share childcare and chores more equally than previous generations.

But the reality can be very different for working parents. For when both have a day off, the mother is doing more than her fair share while her partner is likely to be taking it easy, a study has found.

In a baby’s first three months, dads were enjoying a relaxing time while mums were doing housework or caring for their child.

Even when men did take care of the baby or do work around the home, the mothers were also helping out – not relaxing. The US study found women spent 46 to 49 minutes relaxing while men did childcare or housework on their day off.

But men spent 101 minutes in leisure activities while their partners were labouring away. Women may do more simply because they do not trust their man to do it properly, researchers suggest.

Professor Claire Kamp Dush, of Ohio State University, said: "It’s frustrating. Household tasks and childcare are still not being shared equally, even among couples who we expected would have more egalitarian views."

The study in the journal Sex Roles looked at 52 highly educated working couples who were having their first child.

Both partners kept detailed time diaries of their activities for workdays and time off during the last third of the pregnancy and first three months with the baby.

On workdays after the birth, the amount of time women and men spent doing housework and childcare was more equal. But on days off, men made the most of their leisure time, unlike their partners.

Co-author Professor Jill Yavorksy, of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said on workdays it was "all hands on deck" to get things done. But on days off "we see gendered patterns and inequality where women do a lot more housework and childcare while he leisures".

Professor Kamp Dush said the situation would probably be worse "for women who don’t have all the advantages of the couples in our sample".