In a previous post, we mentioned that sharing household chores is considered an important component of a successful marriage, and that having an agreed-upon system of dividing the chores made a difference in how well couples got along on a day-to-day basis (Bradbury et al, 2013).
Attitudes toward the division of chores vary widely, but research consistently shows that women are still doing most of the household chores, whether or not they are also working outside the home (Stritof, 2020).
According to Pascale and Primavera (2017), wives are still regarded (by both men and women) as the ones who are supposed to do the housework. “In many marriages, housework for women is assumed, whereas men believe that taking care of their home is optional”. …they “don’t regard it as their actual responsibility. Instead, they often expect what they do to be noticed and praiseworthy […] Some studies suggest that women have almost three times the workload of their husbands. Interestingly, these proportions stay about the same, regardless of whether a wife has a full-time job, and whether or not her husband is currently working”.
Each spouse’s upbringing has a great influence on these attitudes. Pascale and Primavera also bring up the point that “It’s not just the amount of work that plays into a husband’s perceptions of fairness—it can also be the types of tasks they’re assigned … Tasks like landscaping and repairs are acceptable, because they affirm their manliness and personal identities. Other tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry, are often seen as women’s work. One individual boasted about how much he helps his wife around the house. When asked if he cleaned the bathrooms and, more specifically, the toilets, his response was “Absolutely not.” The task runs counter to his beliefs about what men should do. How he sees cleaning toilets as an appropriate chore for his wife is a mystery, but for his sake, he’s fortunate that women don’t use chores to define their self-image. They simply do what needs to be done” (2017).
If the wife is not working outside the home, it might be equitable for her to do more of the household chores than her husband, but the tendency is for the husband to believe that his job is equivalent to anything, in any amount, that his wife must do to keep the household running. Maybe his wife has also worked a full day, so she might begin to feel resentful when his work is “done” when he comes home—and hers is not. He feels entitled to rest, without considering that his wife is still working.
There are many strategies for dividing up the housework, but first things first: in the next post, we’ll talk about how to get started talking about chores in the first place!
Bradbury, Wendy Klein, Carolina Izquierdo, Thomas N. “The Difference Between a Happy Marriage and Miserable One: Chores.” The Atlantic, 1 Mar. 2013, https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/the-difference-between-a-happy-marriage-and-miserable-one-chores/273615/.
Pascale, R., & Primavera, L. (2017, September 19). Who’s Cleaning the House? | Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/so-happy-together/201709/who-s-cleaning-the-house
Stritof, S. (2020, February 4). How to Keep Housework From Hurting Your Marriage. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/chores-conflict-in-marriage-2300980