More Women Are In the Workforce — So Why Are They Still Doing So Many Chores?

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With all the time dedicated to getting women into the executive suite, it seems a bit silly to talk about who’s buying the groceries. But new data suggests that women in heterosexual partnerships may be just as burdened with household chores as ever — despite the strides we’ve made to improve our lot around the office.

As I’ve written before, the biggest complaint I hear when it comes to feminism is that we ignore the guys. Men, like women, are subjected to stereotyping, unfair social constructs and cookie-cutter gender standards all the time. We’d probably all be better off if we stopped levying an iron-clad set of expectations on people just because they’re guys or just because they’re gals.

For example, the dearth of paternity leave options for men in the U.S. — and the rarity with which men take the childcare leave that is available to them — is staggering. Yes, men and women have the same (abysmal) set of childcare leave options under federal law. But generally speaking men are less likely to ditch work for a few weeks for childcare duties. If men were more likely to take paternity leave, the logic is, women would have less of the burden.

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And by extension, if women were more likely to be breadwinners, they’d have less to do around the house. Right? Well, maybe not.

The number of hours men and women commit to housework has remained roughly the same over the last several years, according to a new American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statics. This, even while women continue to take on a bigger role in the workforce. Let’s look at the numbers:

In 2011, 83% of women and 65% of men “spent some time doing household activities such as housework, cooking, lawn care or financial and other household management,” according to the report (which you can find here). The year earlier, the spread was 84% to 67%, respectively. Flash back to 2003 and the numbers were at 84% and 63%. So, sure, we’re seeing some change but none that I’d classify as particularly profound — especially when you look at how the workforce is divided today.

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Fewer than one in three children live in a home with a stay-at-home parent, according to a recent report from the Center For American Progress. And while the definition of “breadwinner” is up to liberal interpretation, 2010 data show that 60% of women in the U.S. are either the sole income-earner in their household — or they’re bringing in as much or more than their partners. When you factor in our “worth” financially, it’s a wonder that husband-and-wife pairs don’t have a stricter divvying up of household chores.

The BLS report doesn’t break down the division of married and single respondents — or the statistics on who has kids, and so on. But as the folks over at Feministing pointed out, it’s unlikely that ultra-clean single ladies tipped the scales on their own. There’s something going on here.

The breakdown of housework hours between men and women says something undeniable about heterosexual two-partner households: Women are still doing the bulk of the housework. Women may be breaking the glass ceiling at work but we haven’t “made it” at home.

Amy Tennery is the managing editor of The Jane Dough, which provides news and insight on women in the business world and political arena.

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12 comments
chaitc1234
chaitc1234

I am a full time employee of an MNC. My husband has taken voluntary retirement from his job to pursue his interest in the creative field. My son is a school kid. Well we both manage the household chores together. We both share our household work happily. But one thing that I have observed with others and interestingly most of them are women, is the very fact that my husband shares household chores with me makes them appreciate him while the fact that I am working day and night, managing both home and office has no value. If we calculate it will be found that I work for longer hours. My husband does the cooking mostly and any outside work like taking the car out for a wash, buying vegetable from the market. Even after a 10 hours of office work I come back home and get back to household work immediately, like washing clothes, on my week offs after a tiring week, I would be busy cleaning the house, bathrooms, kitchen, and also cooking. So I hardly get rest. Sometimes I feel so exhausted that I feel like running away from everything alone and take a break for a few days. Women are hardly appreciated for all the hard work they do is what I have observed.

LoveBiteMusic
LoveBiteMusic

I am the woman in the relationship, I make more money and work more hours than my partner. Want to know why I still do the majority of the cleaning? Because I care more about a clean home than my partner. That's it, its simple and not a feminist issue. In our home, chores and responsibilities aren't determined by gender roles. They are determined by what each person cares about. I do most of the cleaning, but I also handle most of the finances and budgeting, and I take care of the bills. My partner is more likely to get the car checked up because he cares more about that than I do, but he's also the one that cooks in our home. All we do is communicate honestly and openly and things get done. Each relationship is different, and it's up to the people in them to figure out how to make things work, that isn't the job of society. If they can't reach agreements, or if something this trivial is a major issue for them, maybe they shouldn't be in a relationship together. I know that there are many traditionalists, and for progressive people that sucks, but hey, no one is forcing you to be with someone who doesnt hold the same values as you. Whoever cares about an issue, whether it be a clean home, taking care of the kids (thank goodness my partner and I are on the same page about that, we don't want to have children), making the money, doing the laundry, cooking, handling door to door sales men, etc, the person that cares about that issue should be the one to take care of it! Thats my opinion. If a guy is hungry, he shouldn't bitch to his woman to cook him food. Likewise, if a woman is unhappy with the mess of the home, she should clean it. Thats just common sense. 

AbdullahAbdul
AbdullahAbdul

A woman who denies her job as housekeeper and is mainly her responsibility is either arrogant or is fooling herself.

VickyClyne
VickyClyne

Sadly there will always be stereotypes. Women cook, clean, rear and bring up children and men.. Ermm.. Fix things. I been brought up by my mum and without a dad or men around and I'm aye ok. just the way we are made really.

Just gotta get oan wi it!!!

Spliffst4rr
Spliffst4rr

It's simple really: It's what women are really good at and if it ain't broken don't fix it.

rivellimarco
rivellimarco

I'm originally from Europe so I apologize if my English isn't perfect. One of the reasons why the divorce rate is so high in the US is that women are abandoning their role of housekeepers. Equality isn't always a good thing and the proof is that, as someone pointed out here, men still do most of the things that women expect them to do, like paying for dinner at a date, driving, and carrying the shopping bags when they're too heavy.

Would any woman give up that? I don't think so. I think these feminists or wannabe feminists should stop complaining and put the remaining effort into pleasing their man instead of bringing up equality only when it's most convenient to them.

thespeciallist
thespeciallist

Interesting too the author chose a 6 year period of time.  Between 1960 and 2000 the amount of household work done by men has more than doubled and the amount of child-care has tripled.  Again I'll ask anyone to point to any other men chores/roles where there has been any significant growth, OTHER then work which was a RIGHT women worked for and is still to this day a choice. In other words, men's roles as breadwinner and provider/protector/beast-of-burden has not changed, nor has their burden in the dating arean, yet they have dramatically increased the amount of household/child-care they perform to make it possible for women, when they choose to, to work as they do.

thespeciallist
thespeciallist

First of al 85% vs 65% does not 'the bulk' make. Second of all while men have vastly increased the amount of classic 'feminine' chores (cleaning, washing dishes) they still maintain most or all of the standard male chores/roles in relationships, despite whether women in their lives *choose* to work or not.  For instance since 1960 how many times do you think a wife or woman on a date gives her mate the bar seat while they are out while she stands? How many times when the car breaks down on a highway at night does the man stay in the car with the door locked while the woman walks through the dark roads in the rain to get help/gas? When there is a noise downstairs how often does the man pull the sheets up around himself and lock the door while the woman goes downstairs with a bat and flashlight?  How often do women walk their dates home at night and put their safety and very lives second to his and then walk themselves home alone once he is safe indoors? How often do women even offer to pay for a date?  How often do you see a woman lugging the heavy groceries / luggage around while the bf/husband carries a little bag and gabs on his cell-phone?


Women remind me of little kids who want everything their sibling has AND their own stuff.  It is one from column A and one from column B and if there is the slightest deficit in column A you get nonsense articles like this while column B hasn't changed in years.  Nothing has changed for men in terms of their roles or expectations, we are simply expected to take on more responsbilities to allow women to CHOOSE which role they want and when.  If you'd only stop complaining and see how great you have it it would be a lot better on every one. But you simply hold on to (false) statsitics about pay and 'household work' since you've never once considered the chauvanistic way in which you view men's obligations to you.  For instance, I hear many women say 'I just want to find a man who acts like a man and knows how to treat a lady the way she deserves to be treated' and that seems to make sense to eveyr one around her. Yet just imaigne a man saying 'I just want to find a woman who knows how to act like a lady and treat a man the way he deserved to be treated' he'll be brained.  I think if my role with a woman is still, despite whether she choose to work or not, being the sole or primary provider for her food/shelter/clothing/medicine/baby/comfort/luxury for the rest of her life, to be a beast of burden for the heavy lifting and to put my comfort, safety and very life ahead of my own, the least I can expect is to not hear grousing when it turns out she does 25% more dishwashing then I do.

Chris07
Chris07

This article is full of a bunch of claptrap. The author of this article was also on the Tom Leykis Show in which she discusses men's inadequacies in helping at home. Surprisingly Tom was rather polite although you could tell in the interview that he was biting his tongue. She also states that women still earn less then men do in the workforce. Dr. Warren Farrell has discussed this issue in his book: Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap - and What Women Can Do About It. Who is Warren Farrell? The only man to be elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women in N.Y.C. Read the book! Amy Tennery is just another politically correct feminist who doesn't understand male and female relationship dynamics. Men and women are not equal and we are not suppose to be. That doesn't mean that one sex is better than the other. This idea that both partners must do everything equally at home has nothing to do with having a happy and successful marriage. There is nothing wrong with having designated roles. With roles there is less guessing and less fighting. Everybody knows what they are suppose to do. Both partners doing everything equally around the house is simply another role that more often that not doesn't work well. Let's look at a small car manufacturing plant as an example. You have a variety of people that are assigned to a particular workstation which includes the braking system, the engine, the chassis, suspension, the engine, upholstery and a few other stations. The fact that the people in this assembly line have their own roles in working in a specific area is what makes the manufacturing process so productive and successful. According to feminist we should disrupt this productive and pragmatic role solution for the sake of equality. Imagine having an assembly line at a car factory in which the workers based their work ethics on feminist doctrine. You can mentally visualize each of the workers fighting among themselves because one worker says a member of the team didn't do enough work in one area before moving to the next station. It would be disastrous and less productive. The world doesn't work that way.

Should men and women have equal opportunities? Yes. Should we force more women into a particular field that they themselves are not naturally enthused for the sake of meeting a quota? No. Should men and women keep scores on household chores to have more balance and equality at home? No. Why not you ask? Because it doesn't prove anything and breeds resentment which is great if you like drama and are hell bent on getting a divorce. Focus less on keeping score and more on appreciation and reciprocation. This is the glue that is essentially responsible for keeping relationships strong and healthy. One of the best ways to facilitate this is to have roles. When people tend to do different task it tends to spark appreciation and encourage reciprocation which ultimately sparks romance. However, when both individuals do the same task partners generally tend to be less appreciative and why shouldn't they? The other person isn't doing any special for you that you don't do for them. So what is there to appreciate? The fact that your partner gave you an equal opportunity to take out the trash? Really? It is no wonder why traditional marriages generally tend to be more successful then these egalitarian style partnerships concocted by feminist.

In my own life I have come to the realization that there are basically two types of women. Women that get it and women that don't. If you men choose to get married pick wisely. Companionship has nothing to do with equally. I never understood this insecurity that women have within themselves in which they somehow feel less of person if they are not doing the exact same thing their male counterpart is doing. When women embraced feminism they also gave up on their appreciation for men in the process. Which is why more often then not you hear many women in this country says things like, "I don't need a man." or "I'm not doing that what do you think I am a slave." or "You got two hands do it yourself." If you can do everything on your own and I can do everything on my own why should men and women live together or have families? That's my point. Relationships are not for people who want to be independent it doesn't work like a square peg in a round hole. Dependency or mutual dependency is a normal part of any healthy relationship. Men do not want roommates as wives they want compassionate and nurturing women. No, that doesn't make men incompetent which is what many women say in response. I see this response as a way for women to rationalize their own inability to be affectionate toward their partner. What does affection mean to women nowadays? Sharing household chores and earning an income equal to that of their partners? Affection, love, and romance have been substituted for equality. Is it a wonder why relationships of this magnitude are more often than not devoid of these elements which are essential in building and sustaining happy marriages. 

Now many people I speak with have opted to not get married. Most of these individuals happen to be men and there have been numerous studies showing that more and more men are getting married at later ages or opting out completely. With the current attitude of women and the laws regarding marriage many of these individuals see marriage as a suckers move and well I can't say that I don't agree with them. But is marriage really the problem? No, I don't think it is. I believe that we live in a society in which most people love to absolve themselves of any responsibility and love blaming other people for their own problems. If you can't blame a man or a woman then blame marriage. A mere concept that works well if both parties understand it and do their part it's really that simple. There have been enough failed marriages over the last couple decades for people to get a clue, those that have a keen sense of awareness, and realize what does and doesn't work. But more often then not people keep making the same stupid mistakes thinking that they are somehow special. Don't blame marriage blame yourself. No, I'm not some love guru expert. Just a person with a little common sense unlike feminist and politically correct obsessed persons who operate in a mind set in which common sense always comes second to equality. Brilliant. Just Brilliant.