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Modern Marriage: How Do You Divide the Housework?

One of the issues facing women as they take on more of the breadwinning roles outside the home is that of housework.

While there are some traditional gender roles changing [3] with regard to career and housework, there is still a gap. Even though women are starting to catch up to men in terms of number of hours spent doing paid work, they are still doing a higher proportion of the housework. A recent Pew study [4] pointed this out, and Sheryl Sandberg addressed the issue in her book Lean In [5].

So, with both parents working, how do you divide up the housework?

Who’s Home More?

It’s true that I’m the primary breadwinner. But just because I make more money than my husband, does that mean that he should have to do the lion’s share of the housework? The reality is that I’m home more because I work from home [6]. Additionally, he has an hour commute both ways. I probably do a little more of the housework as a result, and I am currently the primary caregiver for our son (although my husband was primary caregiver for the first 18 months, and we shared equally for about two years following that stint).

However, I don’t do all the housework. My husband does the laundry, cleans bathrooms, goes shopping, and on nights when he’s home, we cook together. Plus, our son is 10 years old. That’s plenty old enough to do chores. He helps with dishes, collecting up the trash, and dusting. Sometimes he even helps cook.

Trevor Schneck, a work from home dad who owns Bar None Weddings while his wife works as a teacher, has a similar arrangement. Since he’s home more of the time, he does most of the housework. “During the week, she’s working long hours, and we have kids, so I feel like it’s my duty to take care of the house,” Schneck says.

Closing the Housework Gap

The problems arise when both partners are at home for close to the same amount of time. Even in these cases, women often end up doing more of the housework. Liz O’Donnell, whose forthcoming book is Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman, and the owner of the site Hello Ladies, has also observed this gap.

“Couples need to acknowledge there is some sexism at play here,” O’Donnell says. “It may not be overt and intentional, but it’s still sexism.”

She thinks that women need to negotiate household chores, and come up with an arrangement that works for their situation. Additionally, “men need to acknowledge the gap and play an active role in closing it.”

O’Donnell also thinks one of the problems is the fact that flexible work policies related to family and home are rarely applied to men. “Businesses need to apply flex policies and attitudes to men and women, not just women, so that both men and women can find a work life balance that supports their families.”

Is It Time for a Chore Chart?

Some families find that it works to divide up the chores amongst various family members. Having children can help the process, especially if they are old enough to help out.

However, each family needs to find its own balance so that everyone helps out. Now that more women are working outside the home, expecting them to continue doing most of the housework and child care might not be reasonable.

What do you think? How do you divide the household chores in your family?

(Photo: frotzed2 [7])