In the 21st century, parents are more committed to sharing housework and childcare than ever before. It’s a positive trend for many good reasons. According to the U.S. labor department, in 2014, over 60% of married men and women with children had both parents in the work force. Two working parents don’t have much time left over to do all the things that have to be done everyday.
However, this change in attitude has not translated into real equality when it comes to mopping floors, changing diapers, grocery shopping and all of the other tasks of every day life. Men disagree! When surveyed, today’s men feel that they are doing as much as their wives. But when they keep a journal of what they actually do, and for how long, reality doesn’t correspond with perception.
Interestingly, studies find that same sex couples are much more egalitarian when it comes to childcare and housework!
One study found that after a working heterosexual couple had children, women worked 21 more hours per week, while men’s added only 12.5 hours. Everything was in addition to what they were doing before. After having kids, women spent three hours a day on housework and childcare and dad’s spent about one and three quarters hours.
The very good news---Dad’s are spending more time taking care of their children than in the past. Fathers spent 2.5 hours a week with their kids in 1965. But in 2008, they were spending 7 hours a week in childcare. Big improvement! My father spent very little time taking care of my brothers and I when we were little. Today’s Dads want to have a greater role in their child’s life. It’s very hopeful. There’s no doubt that kids will benefit.
But the facts remains, working moms are doing most of the housework. Women spent 2.1 hours a day doing housework, and Dads did 1.4 hours. Working Moms have less time for kicking back than Dads.
So how can parent’s handle housework and childcare? Here are some helpful reminders.
All work is not equal. Let’s be honest with each other. Reading bedtime stories to Jessie is not the same as mopping the kitchen floor. Helping Joe with homework is a little different than grocery shopping. Vacuuming and watching Sarah play soccer are not the same job. Cooking, cleaning, and laundry have to be done every day. Mowing the lawn is a weekly task.
Divide and conquer. Sit down on a regular basis and make a list of all of the tasks that have to be done, who is responsible for them, and when they should be completed. Try to split up tasks based on which ones you like to do (I like to mop the kitchen floor and Diane prefers to clean the bathrooms), the Yuck factor (divide up the less desirable tasks more equitably), and which jobs are seasonal versus daily or weekly. It won’t be exactly equal, but it will be closer to fair.
Speak up. If you become unhappy with how home labor is distributed, don’t harbor resentment. Let your partner know that you want to renegotiate your agreement.
Kids can help too. There is a lot to do, so why not get kids involved at an early age? If you start kids when they are little, keep it simple and small. Over time, they will develop the habit of doing their part. But you have to be consistent and structured for this to stick.
Be fair about leisure time too. I take my Tai Chi class on Monday nights, so Diane makes sure that dinner is cooked. She takes ballet on Saturday morning, so I make sure that the laundry is done. Taking time for you is very important and that time is so precious!
What works for your family?