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According to the recent cover story in Time magazine, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that women and men (who are married, employed and have kids) are now pretty much on par with each other when it comes to the amount of time they work each week. The piece on “Chore Wars” claims that women who work outside the home only put in about 20 minutes more per day of work (both paid and unpaid) than their husbands. But that doesn't mean men and women are necessarily doing equal amounts of the same things: Women are still doing more of the childcare and housework—and although men aren't necessarily putting in the hours at home, they are logging more time at the office.
Do the results reflect a major change in 2011? Back in 1990, Arlie Russel Hothschild’s book The Second Shift declared there was a 15-hour discrepancy between the amount of work women and men did in a week. Hothschild's research implied that moms came home from working full-time jobs and began their “second shift” of tasks like cooking dinner and taking care of the kids, while their husbands kicked back. In fact, Hothschild found that women and men only shared equal household responsibility in 20 percent of marriages -- and that many women accepted the inequity to keep the peace.
But 20 years later, it looks like moms and dads are sharing more responsibility when it comes to things like cleaning and childcare, which makes for happier marriages—if only because there is less resentment and frustration when both partners pitch in. But I also think that women today are less likely to let their partners get away with not helping out.
In our house, I still do most of the housework, but I am a mom who stays at home and I consider that part of my job. Nevertheless, I fall into the same “equal time” category as working moms: As soon as my husband steps foot inside our house, the responsibilities fall to both of us—even if I am a little bit resentful that he got a whole 15 minutes of commuting time without two small people fighting over a Lego. If I'm cooking dinner, he's playing with the kids. If he's giving the kids a bath, I'm folding laundry. If I'm reading them books before bedtime, he's loading the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen.
And when everyone's tucked in and it's finally just the two of us, that’s when we can relax together. There's very little resentment between us (though I admit it took us awhile to get there -- at first it seemed like my husband thought he'd earned two hours of downtime after working all day, which wasn't fair to me or the kids) and we've settled into a happy and healthy routine. Are things equally split in your house?