We all know that we are busy. Busy in our work lives. Busy in our leisure time. And, as I recently shared, museum-goers are extra-busy, especially during their weekends and leisure time.
But is busyness a steady-state, or does it shift and change over a lifetime?
The answer appears to be yes to both. That is, there are certain attributes that many of the busiest tend to have in common (such as museum-going, but also educational attainment). But there are also significant shifts as life stages evolve. These shifts also, unsurprisingly, affect stress levels. Let's take at what the 2018 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers and broader population sampling told us about leisure time, relaxation, and the three main life stages.
Young adults without children
Museum-going young adults are busy. The busiest segment of all museum-goers, averaging 4.9 activities during their typical weekends or leisure time. In particular, they are significantly more likely to catch up on sleep (over 2x as likely!), spend time with friends, and pursue personal hobbies. This all sounds fun and relaxing, right?
Not so fast. They were also the most likely segment to catch up on work, and they were statistically even with parents in doing chores and errands. In the end, this busyness doesn't really translate to relaxation, as a third of museum-going young adults report having no chance to relax at all during their leisure time, and only 16% report being "relaxed and ready for a new week."
For the broader population of young adults, the trends were similar. They were also packing more things into their leisure time (3.6 things on average versus 2.8 for the topline/aggregate average). Additionally, they were more likely to report the extremes on relaxation; on the one hand, more young adults from the broader population are getting no relaxation at all (a whopping 43%), but on the other hand, young adults from the broader population are twice as likely as museum-going young adults to feel "relaxed and ready for a new week."
Parents of minor children
"Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with all I need to do at home and hoping I'm good enough for my kids." - respondent to the 2018 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers
That quote alone speaks volumes about the so-called leisure time of parents. Parents, regardless of the age of their children, are busy, and doing the best they can. Museum-going parents averaged 4.7 activities, and parents in the broader population averaged 3.8, higher than the topline average for both.
For parents, leisure time is overwhelmingly work. They are more likely to be doing chores and errands, of course, but also shuttling children to activities (especially if they had children age 5 and up) and spending time with family (read that as childcare, as it spiked with parents of the youngest children). Additionally, parents are significantly less likely to be spending time on their own personal hobbies (read that as no "me time").
So it should be no surprise that parents are the most likely to report they get no relaxation at all during their leisure time: an appalling 46%. That number is consistent among both museum-going parents as well as parents from the broader population. And it is also consistent regardless of the age of children.
And since only 11% of museum-going parents reported being "relaxed and ready for a new week," that means that the families we are, or hope to be, attracting are not only busy, but headed by stressed adults who are wondering how they are going to get everything done. It means a visit to a museum is yet something else to do (likely for their kids), and scheduling it in is likely tough, requiring tradeoffs. It also means that if museums are going to engage more families, we have to do a better job presenting a value proposition that shows how visiting museums is an easy way to accomplish many goals … thus making it easier to make it a higher priority, and less of an obligation.
Or, in other words, that a museum visit can be that learning and fun activity for children, promote great family time, and maybe, just maybe, help parents pursue their own interests and hobbies as well.
Finally, let's look at older adults. For museum-goers, they averaged only 4.1 activities during their leisure time, and for the broader population, only 3.2.
That lower level of activity translated into lower levels of stress as well, with only 17% of older museum-going adults saying they received no relaxation at all (for reference, parents were nearly 3x more likely to say no relaxation).
The broader population of older adults, however, showed considerably more stress than their museum-going peers, however, with a third saying they had no chance to relax at all.
That difference in stress levels between older museum-goers and the broader population, however, is a potent reminder that, regardless of life stage, stress comes in many forms. While time constraints are one potential form of stress, this research doesn't approach measuring other types (such as financial, medical or health, or any other stressors). I'll come back to this topic next time.
Do you value this research? Does it help you in your work at your museum? Do you want it to continue to help you and our field?
If so, consider how useful it would be to know how your museum's stakeholders feel about your museum, lifelong learning in museums, and more. By enrolling your museum in the 2019 Annual Survey of Museum Goers, you can easily benchmark the visitation rates, motivations, attitudes and preferences, and demographics of your stakeholders. Additionally, you can compare your results to your peers, begin to track them over time, and gain far more contextual information through your custom results and report. The fee for 2019 is only $1,000 per museum.
I respectfully acknowledge that I live and work on the traditional lands of the Duwamish people. I thank them for the care of this land, and I endeavor to help museums bring forward a more complete and inclusive history and culture in their work.