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 housework for their wives? Or ... both?

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,

man housework

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.

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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 SouthwoodEmily Southwood is working on a memoir called Prude and blogs at She lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Emily is the author of the “I Married a Pornographer” series on BettyConfidential.

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4 thoughts on “Are Women Still Doing More Housework? Do We Mind?

  1. Another side to this is it isn’t just the amount of work, but the type of work. Women are usually still have to manage the housework, while men get first pick of the jobs and are in charge of lower stress jobs. For example, a man might have to mow the lawn some time on the weekend, buy the woman has to have supper on the table at six every night, after work. Or men cook occasionally, but only when they feel like it. They usually aren’t the ones dragging themselves into the kitchen to cook hamburger helper after an exhausting day of work.

    Men usually aren’t in charge of what gets done and when, either. Ads for cleaning products might feature men cleaning, but NEVER without a woman watching him do it (and sometimes taking the blame for mistakes). And there’s the stereotypical old fight: she says, “I shouldn’t have to ask you.” and he says, “so, i’m supposed to read your mind?” Because there are still some (thankfully not all) men who still think mind reading is more logical than a man taking control of the housework.

    Of course, not everyone lives like this, but it is worth thinking about when adding up how much work people are doing around the home.

  2. How about this: I’ll do stuff (cook, look after kids, etc.) but I REFUSE to 1. take out the trash 2. get the car washed 3. shovel 4. yard work 5. CLEAN TOILETS… hire a cleaning lady for that stuff!!

  3. I think it is interesting that you polled women. As 27 year old married man I am can tell you that I do about 80% of the cooking, and cleaning, and nearly all of the yard work. I think she believes that she does about 60% of the cooking and cleaning but to be frank she is just doesn't notice most of the cleaning that I do, nor does she notice the massive mess she leaves in her wake on a daily basis. I know, I know, communication issues, and I tried having that conversation more times than I can count, but if someone just doesn't care there isn't anything that will change it.

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