Many couples today split the household chores pretty evenly. It is when kids come into the picture, however, that the moms take on more of the home and family responsibilities than the dads do. Just in time for Mother’s Day, the research shows that, while modern couples say they want to share the duties around the home equally, that is largely not what happens when the couple has children.
A new study shows that most couples who do split work around the home fairly evenly before becoming parents do not divide it evenly afterwards. The study, conducted by researchers from Ohio State University, also shows that both partners believe their workload rose dramatically after becoming parents. In fact, detailed time diaries showed that while dads’ workloads increased on average 40 minutes per day, but the moms’ work around the home jumped by two hours.
The data was gathered by following and interviewing 182 professional-level couples prior to having children as well as afterwards. They asked the pairs to keep time diaries, and to log how they spend their time daily.
The results shows why it is harder for women to “lean in” and become leaders at work. It also provides concrete ammunition in the chore wars at home by showing that; in general, men do far less around the house than they think.
In the interviews and diaries, men and women reported working at a job for about 45 hours a week. They also spent about 15 hours per week each working around their home. This was prior to the couple having children.
During their pregnancies, most expected that balance to continue. Over 95 percent of both the women and the men indicated a belief that fathers should help with bathing, dressing and feeding their child. They also agreed on the importance of dads providing physical, emotional and financial support for their children.
That is not what actually happened, however. About nine months after the babies were born, once the couples were more settled into their new role as parents, they were interviewed again. Each member, on average, indicates that they were not spending about 90 hours each week working both at their job and in the house. The moms gave breakdowns on their typical week, which included an estimated 27 hours in doing housework, 28 hours taking care of the baby and now working at their job about 35 hours each week. The fathers provided estimates that their weeks now included approximately 41 hours of paid work, 35 hours of housework and 15 hours of caring for the baby.
It turned out that their verbal answers did not match the specifics they wrote in their diaries. The moms’ time diaries showed they spent 12 hours less taking care of their babies than they verbally thought they were (15 hours). Even when time moms spent playing with the baby or reading to it was factored in, the women still spent six hours less than they had believed caring for their children. They were also doing half as much work around the house than they guessed time wise (13. 5 hours). Surprisingly, the moms were actually logging more hours at their jobs than they thought they were.
The fathers’ estimates of their weekly workload were even more inaccurate. They had claimed they spent 15 hours caring for their child, but really spent two-thirds of that time (10 hours). The dads spent 46 hours at their jobs, more than they did prior to having a child! Lastly, the men’s diaries showed they only did nine hours of work around the house per week. This was one-fourth of the 35 hours they had claimed in the interviews.
While the Ohio State study was small, it does offer a glimpse into the inequities that can impact a marriage or partnership once a child enters the picture. If moms do take on more of the home and childcare responsibilities than dads when the kids come, there should be a dialog about the impact and a real accounting of the responsibilities, whether shared equally or not.
By Dyanne Weiss