Spouses Sharing Equal Housework

Topics: Family, Marriage, Housekeeping Pages: 5 (1477 words) Published: September 5, 2001
"Who says it's a woman's job to clean?"� In today's society, Americans are working more than ever. This is particularly the case for women. Women continue to increase their participation in the paid work force, and the average paid work week of fully employed women has risen from 35 hours in 1969 to 40 hours in 1990 (Schor 1993). The overriding question for most dual-earning marriages--is who is going to do the housework. Apparently men and women have a different perspective on who should do what, and they find themselves fighting about it. The man is apparently demanding that she do most of the work, and she is demanding that the man do it (Harley, Dr. "�How to Divide Domestic Responsibilities"�. Marriage Builders 17 Mar. 1997: 1.). Traditionally, wives assumed household and child care responsibilities, while the husband took care of providing income for the family; however, full time working women are still largely responsible for home and family care. In my opinion, we need to abandon the Victorian ideal of separate spheres. If women are to be equal participants in the economy and the polity, men must become equal partners in maintaining homes and raising children. In 1950, U.S. families with breadwinner fathers and stay-at-home mothers were twice as numerous as any other family types. Today there are twice as many two-earner families as families where only the man works. The rapid increase in the number of mothers holding jobs is arguably the most important social trend of the past half-century. In a dramatic departure from the 1950s, most mothers return to work before their first child turns one-year old.

Gone are popular images of anxious and isolated expectant fathers pacing hospital waiting rooms and passing out cigars. As late as the early 1970s, only one in four men attended the birth of their children, but now over eight out of ten fathers are present in the delivery room ("Families and gender equity"�. National Forum.) Men are also doing more childcare after the baby comes home. Opinion polls show that two of three American men say that they value families over jobs, and two of three wives say they want husbands to spend more time with the children. As most women have figured out by now, men are not very motivated to do childcare and housekeeping. Whether these attitudes will motivate men to share in the full range of family tasks remains to be seen, but fathers appear to be doing more than they formerly did.

Fathers who are sharing everyday parenting with their wives is increasing, such men are intimately involved in the details of their children's lives, and while they might not act exactly like mothers, they adopt some similar styles of parenting, including treating sons and daughters alike. As everyday parents, men are more in touch with their child's developing needs and abilities in setting realistic goals for them. The experience of caring for children also generalizes to other relationships: men who do more parenting report they are more in touch with their emotions, are more compassionate, and can relate better to their wives.

Though men are doing more parenting than their own fathers did, changes have been slower than anticipated. Some of the major barriers to father involvement stem from job demands and the structure of the workplace. Work-family programs (like flextime and parental leave) are usually designed with women in mind, giving some men more schedule flexibility and shorter hours (Mellor, Earl. 1986. "Shift work and Flextime"� Monthly Labor Review 109:14-21).

However, women have discovered that there are costs associated with making children a priority, including slower promotions, lower earnings, and a general perception that one is not serious about work. Men's family involvement also has been limited around the house. Many men worry about their masculinity, they refuse to perform activities they consider "women's work."� But perhaps most importantly, men do little family work...

Cited: --"Families and Gender equity"�, National Forum.
--Harley, Dr. "How to Divide Domestic Responsibilities."� Marriage Builders 17 Mar. 1997: 1.
--Mellor, Earl. 1986. "Shift Work and Flextime."� Monthly Labor Review 109:14-21 --Perry-Jenkins, Maureen, and Karen Folk. 1994. "Class, couples, and Conflict: Effects of the Division of Labor on Assessments of Marriage in Dual-earner Families. Journal of Marriage and the Family 56:165-80.
--Schor 1993 --Thompson Linda. 1991. "Family Work: Women 's Sense of Fairness."� Journal of Family Issues 12:181-96.
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