The Wall Street Journal ran a piece recently about how women and men perceive their time differently when it comes to childcare and domestic activity. On average, both sexes now work the same number of hours each week (with men working more paid hours), but women still carry most of the load on the home front, whether they work for pay or not. According to surveys, child care is more stressful for women than domestic chores, and “if women believe child care is unevenly divided in their homes, this imbalance is much more likely to affect their marital happiness than a perceived imbalance in, say, vacuuming.”
I’m trying to decide if this is true for me. It’s hard to gauge, because B is a very engaged father when he’s at home, and I know it makes a big difference for me when he takes on household chores without my asking or reminding him. But maybe if that weren’t the case, I’d be a lot more stressed…
Truth be told, the current division of labor in our household feels a little strange. The traditional breadwinner/stay-at-home parent roles B and I assumed a few years ago aren’t super comfortable for us: We met while working together and — with the exception of a couple of years — remained working together all of our married life, until B had to change jobs and our daughters arrived. Because B’s work hours are now off-site (and long), and I’m home full-time (and the better multi-tasker), I keep the home fires burning. But we talk a lot about getting to a place where we can share more of the parenting (and domestic tasks and homeschooling) — and more of the bread-winning again. (I do work for pay now, but it’s contract and freelance from home and the hours vary.)
It makes practical sense that the stay-at-home parent would take on the majority of the domestic and child-care tasks, but the WSJ article says that moms still assume a disproportionate amount of “time-sensitive domestic tasks,” such as getting kids dressed and off to school:
These deadlines have unintended consequences. They force women to search for wormholes in the time-space continuum simply to accomplish all the things that they need to do. In 2011, the sociologists Shira Offer and Barbara Schneider found that mothers spend, on average, 10 extra hours a week multitasking than do fathers “and that these additional hours are mainly related to time spent on housework and child care.”
I can totally relate to the “searching for wormholes in the time-space continuum.” I look desperately for those holes every single day. And when B is home, whatever he does — helping with dinner, getting the kids ready for bed, falling asleep with them, etc. — allows me to find those windows and check things off my list. It also gives me a tiny bit of breathing space and tranquility, which goes a long way.
This is exactly what the author of the article says makes the difference for most moms. We spend nearly twice as much time caring for our families as our husbands do, and it’s not extra leisure time that we find most relaxing but seeing our spouses make a bigger effort “to reduce the pandemonium in the house.”
Do you find this to be true? How is household labor divided in your home? Is it a source of tension or have you worked out something satisfactory to both parities? (And if you happen to be a stay-at-home dad, how does this all play out? I’m curious!)
Image: “Leslie Sitting At Desk,” painting by Leslie Graff. Want to keep up with SlowMama? Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.