Chore wars: Are men doing enough housework?

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Speed read

What's happening: In general, gender roles are changing. Women are more likely to work outside the home. Men increasingly say they want an equal marriage. But even though men today spend much more time helping out at home than previous generations, women still take on the bulk of household duties.

Women in the United States spend 2 hours and 15 minutes a day on cooking, cleaning and laundry — 50 minutes more per day than men. In fact, single mothers spend less time on housework than moms with a live-in male partner.

Why there's debate: The women's rights and feminist movements in recent decades have eroded the traditional notion of men as breadwinners and women as homemakers. Scientific research has also begun to show the effect of housework imbalance. Studies indicate splitting household duties unequally can reduce the happiness of both partners and contributes to the gender wage gap that robs the world economy of trillions of dollars a year.

Common explanations, beyond laziness, for the gap in housework are an enduring commitment to traditional gender roles, societal pressure women feel to keep a clean house, and fatherhood not being given the same level of respect as motherhood in the workplace.

Some argue that it's fair for men to do less of the household work, since they spend more time on average at their jobs. Studies on same-sex couples suggest the chore imbalance may be more about professional obligations than gender. Others say discussion of the housework gap unfairly maligns couples who prefer to practice more traditional gender roles in their marriages.

What's next: The notion that men and women should do an equal share of housework has become more popular over time. Two potential government policies that could promote that goal — universal childcare and paid family leave — have been pushed by a number of lawmakers.

Perspectives

Old ideas about gender roles are still prominent.

"Traditional attitudes about gender play a large role in the division of household labor, too. In a study of 23 countries across the world, most men and women still believe that the bulk of child-care work, such as changing diapers, giving baths, and feeding, are a mother’s responsibility." — Lizzy Francis, Fatherly

When you consider professional work, men work harder than women.

"Among married couples living together with kids, if anything, it’s dads who do more work in total — adding up paid work, housework, child care, and even shopping." — Robert VerBruggen, Institute for Family Studies

Gender bias in the workplace holds women back from being the primary breadwinner.

"Being a working dad means you, statistically speaking, get treated better at work, you get raises, you get seen as responsible. … Being a working mom means you, statistically speaking, get seen as distracted and unreliable, so are passed over for promotions." — Pacific Standard columnist David M. Perry, Twitter

Couples shouldn't be criticized for choosing traditional gender roles.

"Maybe it’s fair for men to work slightly longer hours overall because work outside the home really is less grueling (and certainly less so than pregnancy and childbirth). At the same time, maybe women’s longer home-hours reflect genuine female preferences, a widespread maternal desire for part-time work, and not just the dead hand of patriarchy." — Ross Douthat, New York Times

Women will have to force men to do their equal share.

"Men will have to make better choices. Men will have to develop a greater sense of responsibility and moral feeling toward the women they live with. … Men are not likely to do this willingly. But women may be able to compel them to." — Moira Donegan, The Guardian

Men need to be given the opportunity to be equal partners at home.

"More and more, fathers report feeling that family is not a distraction but rather a precious and essential part of life — an ambition just as important, if not more so, than their careers. They say they are ready to lean in and to fulfill their caregiving ambition. When will the rest of us be ready to believe them and, most importantly, support them?" — Todd Pittinsky and Julia Bear, New York Daily News

Even when men do help with housework, they take on an easier load.

"Even when men do contribute to household labor, tired gender dynamics still play out: men do the outdoor chores (lawn mowing) and women do the indoor chores (dish-washing, vacuuming — you know, all the work that needs to be done regularly.) The real grunt of housework is still largely considered women’s work." — Hazel Cills, Jezebel

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