It will come as a surprise to many working mums out there, but UK women have been crowned 'Queens of Leisure' in the western world. According to a new survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, women in the UK find an average of around five and a half hours a day to relax, a figure well ahead of their French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Chinese and US counterparts, as well as the OECD average of four hours and 42 minutes.
Doubtless many working mums or busy housewives will be surprised at these figures, which reveal that women can spend up to 598 minutes a day on personal care -- sleeping, personal hygiene and medical care -- 197 minutes a day on paid work or study, and 258 minutes on unpaid work, such as shopping or housework, with the remaining 339 minutes devoted to leisure activities such as watching TV or taking part in sporting activities.
But does the research really reflect the reality for many busy women here in Northern Ireland? We asked four local women to give us an insight into how they spend their downtime.
The 32-year-old therapist is the owner of the Skin Medi-Spa on Belfast's Lisburn Road. She lives in the city with her son Ethan (4). She says:
I'm up every day at about 6.45am and I do 10 or 15 minutes of meditation before I do anything else. I helps me feel more prepared for the day.
After Ethan goes to school I get into work at about 9.30am. I work Tuesday to Saturday and work late two nights a week until 9pm as well.
After work it's homework and dinner with Ethan. He goes to bed at about 8.30pm so after that I get organised and check emails. I do try to switch off for a bit and have some 'me' time but at night I tend to check emails. I then go to bed at about 11pm.
I do try to make time for myself and I think I get about an hour a day. On Wednesdays I don't have client appointments so they tend to be admin days.
I try to take things a little easier then and if I can I have a little treat --it might be a massage or a hair appointment or a yoga class. I don't always manage that but I do try.
I make a point of picking Ethan up from school every day because it is close by. Sometimes we have lunch together if I have time then he goes off to nursery. They start homework with him but it needs finished off in the evening.
I've started taking belly dancing classes too; it's fantastic and very good for your emotional well-being. I try to do that once or twice a week.
At weekends I spend time with Ethan and my family, who I'm very close to. I try to see my friends once or twice a month for a night as well.
I can't believe women get five and half hours of leisure a day, though -- I'm lucky if I get five and a half hours of relaxation time a week!"
The 37-year-old works as a branch manager for Open + Direct Insurance and lives in Portaferry with her husband Gary, a transport manager, and their children Emma (10) and Drew (7). She says:
I definitely don't get close to five and half hours of leisure time. My alarm goes off at half six so we're always up before 7am.
I start work at 9am but if Gary has an early start the kids don't leave for school until 8.45am and that means I start 15 minutes later and adjust my breaks. I leave work at 5.30pm and am usually home by 6.15pm. Dinner has usually been made by Gary so we all sit down as a family unless he's working late.
Gary clears the table while I sit at the kitchen table. I'm there probably until about 8pm, generally helping out with the homework.
After that I start getting organised for the next day. I make the lunches, get uniforms together, see who's going swimming or to PE. Then I take care of washing and other bits and pieces. By the time I get to the sofa it's after 9.30pm and I get to bed at about 10.30--11pm.
I like to walk so I get about 15 minutes to do that in the evenings, while I try to give myself an hour or two at the weekend. I've just signed up to do a leg of the marathon so I'll be starting to run soon.
Weekends are spent ferrying kids around to clubs and activities. I feel that my weekends should be spent spending time with the children, as during the week you get caught up with homeworks.
I also try to do the shopping during the week so it's a chore I don't have to do at weekends. Going round the supermarket isn't a good way to spend a Saturday.
I think having more leisure time would be amazing. The best times are when the kids are off school because you don't have to do the homeworks.
Weekends you make the most of but a little more leisure time during the week would be great, as I only get an hour or an hour and a half at the moment."
The 30-year-old marketing director lives in Portrush with her fiance Paul Beckett, a helicopter pilot. She says:
I work from home two days a week, while for three days I work in Holywood. I leave the house at 6.30am and start work at about 8am before leaving for the day at 5.30pm. When I'm working from home I also start at 8am but I might work on until 7pm.
I commute somewhere between two and a half to three hours a day but I love living on the north coast so I don't mind the travel at all. I'm not a big TV watcher so I only see about four or five hours a week, but I'm a big fan of cooking.
I probably have somewhere around three hours a day to myself. That's time not used sleeping, eating, working or for personal care. I'm quite active so I spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking, swimming and cycling at weekends and spending time with my fiance. I'm looking forward to the lighter evenings so I can cycle more.
I think leisure time, particularly at weekends, is really important. If you have a good weekend you can come back on Monday feeling totally refreshed and ready to go. I think I have a good balance of work and leisure time."
The stay at home mum (41) lives in Belfast with her husband Martin, a senior civil servant, and their children, Lydia (12), Eva (11), Patrick (9), Ollie (6) and Amelia (8 months). She says:
I used to work as a HR manager and took a career break after Ollie was born before deciding not to go back to work.
I get up at 7am and luckily I have a hands-on husband so we get everyone up, dressed, hair done and packed lunches made. Martin takes the girls to school on his way to work, I take the boys to their school and then I walk the dog with Amelia in the pram. I do any shopping that needs done, clean the house and make the dinner. I try to get everything done in the morning before the kids come home from school. We have a very traditional set up in that the man goes out to work and earns the money while I look after the house and kids, but I love it.
By the time I pick the kids up from school everything is calm because I've it all done. I pick Ollie up at 2pm, give him a snack and do homework with him before I get the other three at 3pm. They do their homework and have snacks too.
The children like me being home and it means if anyone's sick I'm five minutes down the road from school. There was a virus around recently and three of the five kids got it. There was someone at home for three whole weeks and no employer would put up with a parent being off work for that long.
I take the pressure off Martin too because he doesn't have to worry about meetings and things. When he comes home we all eat dinner together and the little ones have baths and go to bed. Because I have all the housework done it means I can relax from about 8pm in the evening. I'll be spending time with Martin, looking at the iPad or in the lighter evenings going for a walk with a friend. I'm busy during the day -- being a stay at home mum is my job but it means I can relax in the evenings.
I'm very lucky because I don't have to work. There are people who have to do all the things I do during the day when they get home at night and I do applaud them. Our system works for us.
I think five hours a day of leisure time sounds an awful lot, particularly if you have to work all day and take care of everything else in the evening."
BUSY FAMOUS WOMEN
* Victoria Beckham is mother to Brooklyn, Cruz, Romeo and Harper and yet she still finds time to rustle up chic clothing lines, swiftly becoming one of the most popular UK designers.
* There’s no relaxing for Beyonce Knowles, as the singing star revealed that after the birth of her daughter, Blue Ivy, she soon went back to work with her baby in tow. The star even breastfed her daughter while at her recording studio.
* Vice-chairman of West Ham United Football Club Karren Brady, who was also a non-executive director for Channel 4 and Mothercare, as well as an author and columnist, was once told by the Queen: “I don't know how you do it”. The busy mother of two replied: “Well, ma’am, I guess it’s a bit like you — when you’re a working mother, you’ve got to get on with it.”