A year and a half in a state of lockdown has not improved the battle between the sexes over housework. According to new data out this month, men and women have vastly different perceptions of how much they help out.
The American Family Survey finds that for couples with children, for instance, men say they take about 47 percent of the responsibility for child care. Women, though, say that their partners are taking closer to 31 percent of the load. When it comes to chores, things are just as stark: Men say they do about the same amount of housework as their partners. Women, on the other hand, say that they are shouldering two-thirds of the responsibility.
Men still tend to work longer hours outside the home than women do, and women still tend to prefer part-time work while their children are young. But it’s not like nothing has changed since the 1950s. Men have steadily increased the number of hours they devote to child care and housework. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003 to 2018, the percentage of men cooking meals and cleaning up after them increased from 35 percent to 46 percent. Still, a lot of people are unhappy with their arrangements.
A third of men say they are unsatisfied with the amount of housework their partner is doing and more than half of women say they are unsatisfied. Experts have speculated for years over the cause of this unhappiness. Researchers at Stanford believe women suffer from “unentitlement.” As one article described it: “Often without being aware of it, women seem to feel they deserve to do most of the work simply on the basis of sex.” Some attribute the dissatisfaction to the nature of working in the home. In her book, “All Joy and No Fun,” Jennifer Senior suggests that caring for young children deprives (mostly) mothers of “flow,” a pleasant state where you can get into one task (no matter how mundane) for a long time without interruption.
Finally, there are those who say that no matter how much cleaning or cooking or child care a father does it won’t matter because women are doing all the “emotional labor.” In a piece called “Women Aren’t Nags—We’re Just Fed Up,” one author describes how being in charge of so many things at home is what is really driving women crazy.
Early feminists saw the solution to this problem a half century ago. Betty Friedan encouraged women to hire help to deal with mundane household tasks, an idea subsequently endorsed by the National Organization for Women.
But there are other options besides paying a maid . . . and they’re living right under our roofs. Both men and women in the American Family Survey report being overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the amount of housework done by their children. Fifty-four percent of men and 61 percent of women think that their children should be contributing more.
Recent research found that children between 6 and 12 are spending fewer than three hours per week on chores (with girls spending a little more time than boys). Given that kids in this age group are spending four to six hours a day on screens, the parents’ view hardly seems unreasonable.
In an era when parents seem to be running around like crazy to get their kids to all their activities and accommodate their every whim, maybe it’s time to take a step back and ask what our offspring are contributing to the household.
Sure, they’re not going to be milking the cows at the crack of dawn the way children have in previous ages, but at the very least they could lessen a few of the burdens on Mom and Dad while learning some responsibility to boot.
Tired of putting away dishes? Maybe your daughter should be doing that. Worried that laundry is too much of a heavy lift? Fine, but it doesn’t take much practice to set the table or clear it.
Instead of pointing fingers at each other, mothers and fathers need to take responsibility for failing to delegate responsibility. With all that free labor at home, what are we waiting for?
Naomi Schaefer Riley is the author of “No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists Are Wrecking Young Lives.”
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Author: ThinkCivics Newswire
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