I read this article today about housework. Apparently, the majority of Australian women who are in relationships still do the bulk of the housework.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that while woman have taken on more paid work, they still do about two thirds of the housework, while men do two-thirds of paid work.
Between 1992 and 2006, the average time men spent on household work rose by 1 hour and 25 minutes to 18 hours and 20 minutes a week.
Adults now spend an average of 50 hours and 10 minutes a week in a combination of paid work and household work.
And the report shows women are spending almost six times as long on laundry as men, and more than three times as long on other housework such as cleaning.
However, men are doing more of the cooking than in the past.
So what does this mean when both of you work full-time? Or one of you works full time while the other works part time and studies? How is caring for children – helping them with their homework, taking them to sport or ballet or music lessons – factored into the equation? Are these results applicable to same sex couples?
And the big question is -does the lack of equal sharing of housework contribute to stresses and strains in the relationship?
I haven’t conducted any of my own research but I have a few anecdotes to share which suggest housework is shared very unevenly in many modern households and that it does cause problems.
My friend, Jono, recently split with his partner of fifteen years. He kept the house as she had met someone else she was moving in with. They decided to have joint custody of the kids. One thing I have always noticed about Jono’s house is how tidy it is. Immaculate is probably the best way to describe it. I have never seen a speck of dust on the furniture. Even when I have turned up unannounced there has never been so much as an unmade bed.
Imagine my surprise when Jono invited me round for tea the other day and I walked in to the living room from hell. It was like some of the shared house student digs I lived in briefly while I was at University. Pizza boxes under the coffee table. Dust an inch thick on the TV. I don’t think the carpet had seen a vacuum cleaner for at least 3 months.
Jono could see how horrified I was. I felt like calling in Kim and Aggie and saying :’I’ve got a live one for you here.’
‘Celeste always did everything,’ he said. ‘I work full time and I have the kids three nights a week. I just can’t seem to get around to it.’
Celeste had worked full time too, yet she’d still had time to tidy the house. Perhaps Jono was having trouble adapting to his change in circumstances.
‘Maybe you should get a cleaner,’ I said. ‘Until you get used to things.’
‘I can’t afford one right now.’
‘Well, then you’d better find the time to do some cleaning.’
‘You’re right,’ Jono said. ‘You couldn’t give me a hand, could you?’
I didn’t think so.
My friend, Mel, is in a good relationship at the moment. There is talk that she and her boyfriend might move in together. But Mel has noticed something unsettling. James always has a very tidy house but on the weekends Mel stays over he leaves a lot of the household chores undone. She gets the sense he is waiting for her to do them. ‘Boy, has he got another think coming,’ says Mel. ‘I’m happy to help but I’m not going to do everything.’
That’s my girl!
My neighbour was telling me just yesterday that she is at the end of her tether. Her husband retired at the end of last year and will not share the housework load. ‘I never asked him to do it before because he was working full time. He seemed so tired at the end of the day,’ she said. But now that he is at home every day she has changed her attitude. Problem is, he hasn’t changed his.
On the other side of the coin, I do know a lot of people who share the load equally. Many men I know do all the cooking, or the laundry, or the shopping. In my household both my husband and my son are responsible for various jobs like emptying the dishwasher, washing the car, gardening, vacuuming and so on. By sharing the load we have more time to do fun things and there is less cause for resentment.
So come on, boys. Get into that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans. Break out that vacuum. Dust those bookshelves. Go get your aprons on. Prove the stats wrong. And if all else fails, hire a cleaner.