Are Women Still Doing More Housework? Do We Mind?
Are guys chipping in more than they used to? Or are they, in fact, creating more work for their wives? Or … both?
-Emily Southwood, imarriedapornographer.com
This past Mother’s Day I gave my mother-in-law a silly card about leaving all the housework for dad. It got a laugh because she’d recently remarked on how happy she was to see that her son, my husband, likes to cook and shares in the chores.
“It’s nice to see more guys cooking and cleaning,” she’d said. In her day, husbands tended to do zero housework. Sometimes it made her want to rip her hair out. She was a mother of three, so I can imagine why.
I started wondering whether it’s a fact that men do more housework than they used to. And thanks to trusty old Google, I came across a 2008 study from The University of Michigan, which discovered that having a husband actually created an extra seven hours of housework a week for wives!! Wow, that’s a lot of picking up dirty socks. However, it also proved that women did much less housework than thirty years ago (17 hours a week in 2005 compared to 26 hours in 1976) and men did more (13 hours versus six).
Phew, my MIL was right: men do do more housework now, twice as much. But they still do less than women overall.
Curious about how these stats were playing out in the lives of my girlfriends, I conducted a rather unscientific poll. The results were mixed. Several girlfriends concurred that they do more of the housework but don’t really mind and feel their spouses or live-in-boyfriends contribute in other ways.
A couple lucky gals reported men who do more than them in the chore department. In fact, one girlfriend is actively brushing up on her domestic skills. She eschewed learning to clean or cook in her self-professed feminist years and is now struggling to keep up with her neurotically neat, top chef boyfriend.
And then there were girlfriends who responded that doing the majority of housework is both the status quo a definite point of contention. “I’m pretty sure he thinks the toilet brush is a back scrubber,” said one gal pal.
Another responded with several slurs interspersed throughout: “The biggest stress trigger in my life!!!”
Interestingly, these women tended to work the same amount as their partners, perhaps exacerbating the feeling that they shouldn’t have to do an extra share of vacuuming when they get home. Fair enough.
When my husband and I talked about getting hitched, I brought up my concerns about chores. I worried that some of the more traditional expectations of wives might lead me, personally, to want to stick my head in an oven. So before walking down the isle, we agreed that cooking, cleaning, and childrearing were things that we would share.
Three years later, as the fates would have it, hubby works many more hours a day than I do. He’s a cinematographer, often off on twelve and even sixteen-hour shoots. As you can imagine, his schedule doesn’t leave him ample time for toilet scrubbing. Thus I’m the boss of all things dust and moldy shower grout.
But the thing that I’ve discovered about myself as a wife is that I don’t really mind doing more than my share of the housework. What would bother me is feeling an expectation that the chores were always mine to do. Or, perhaps worse, knowing I had to nag someone to get anything done. We all know how well nagging works. As it stands, our division of labor is working for us. That is, minus all those shoes and that film equipment you left by the door, dear. Time, and perhaps a brood of screaming children, will only tell how we evolve.
I, for one, am glad to be with a generation of men who can get down with more housework. Will men be doing half the chores in thirty more years? Maybe. I sure plan to teach my hypothetical son to clean and cook. And I definitely have my MIL to thank for hubby’s helpfulness around the house. That, and his uncompromising attention to putting the toilet seat down. Special thanks for that one.
Emily Southwood is working on a memoir called Prude and blogs at imarriedapornographer.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Emily is the author of the “I Married a Pornographer” series on BettyConfidential.