Subscribe to blog via RSS

Search Blog

Goodbye, Mommy Wars. Hello, Chore Wars

Categories: The Juggle, Working? Living?

7 comments

Cleaning stuffI hate to vacuum.

I checked with my mom on this one, and, apparently, I’ve hated vacuuming since well before I could walk.

Alas, some of the people who live in my home routinely put bits of whatever they find on the floors into their little mouths, so vacuuming is a necessary evil. I still try to avoid it as much as possible. Unfortunately, so does everyone else in my household, so it usually falls to me anyway.

Women may be shattering glass ceilings at work and in politics, but it seems like we’re pretty much where we’ve always been at home. A 2007 study conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and George Mason University found that, after marriage, women take on a larger proportion of household chores than their spouses do. In fact, overall, men averaged 9.41 hours’ housework per week to 21.13 hours of housework by women, and the higher the marriage rate in the 28 countries studied, the higher the proportion of housework carried out by women.

This, in spite of the fact that a 2007 Pew Research Center study on marriage and parenting found that “chore-sharing” was cited by 62 percent of respondents to be the biggest key to having a good marriage (up from 47 percent in 1990).

Part of the problem may have to do with the way we’re wired. Men see (or don’t see) dirt differently than women do, some people insist. So, while the mom is furious because the family room carpet is crunchy with crumbs, the dad just notes that he can technically still see the floor, and goes about his business as usual.

A bigger issue may be that, no matter how egalitarian our society is, it’s still assumed, by both men and women, that housework is women’s work. Go to a toy store and check out the toy vacuums and other cleaning paraphernalia stocked under “pretend play” — nary a boy will you find. For the most part, even if both parents are working full-time outside the home, a man doing housework is seen as “helping” his wife. (Hence the house cleaning guide for men, which assumes that guys don’t know their Ajax from their elbow grease.)

Also, guys don’t necessarily notice that they’re not doing their fair share — and women aren’t telling them. According to The Factbook by Po Bronson, American wives do 70 to 80 percent of the housekeeping, regardless of their work status, but 40.4 percent of US husbands say they think they do as much around the house as their wives.

The idea of the men commandeering the cleaning supplies is such a tantalizing one that there are actual books promoting it as fantasy, like Porn for Women, a nudity-free offering by the Cambridge Women’s Pornography Collective featuring shots of hot hunks tidying up while saying things like “I love a clean house.” (They offer a calendar and postcards, too. Awesome.)

To be fair, I have to admit that I have never mowed our lawn in the nine years my husband and I have been together and, when I do yardwork, it’s definitely a case of me “helping” him. (Those quotes are there for a reason; I have had to be reminded that, when planting tulip bulbs, the pointy end goes up –  that’s how bad I am at gardening.)

So, who keeps your house clean while you’re working? You? Your spouse? The cleaning lady? All of the above?



Subscribe to blog via RSS
Share this on:

7 comments so far...

  • haha i was reading this and thinking - it depends on the chore! We are actually probably more ‘balanced’ than most since the only thing hubby doenst really do is dust. but i usually am the instigater when it comes to cleaning and tend to re-clean whatever he has attempted to clean. HOWEVER - like you said - i do not do any yard work ever. hate it! i will pick out the pretty flowers and point to where they should go and thats about it. I also dont deal with trash or kitty litter. all his! so really, i think my hubby goes above and beyond when he cleans the kitchen floors, bathrooms, and vaccums… i am so lucky!

    Kate  |  April 21st, 2008 at 7:49 am

  • Oh my, Porn for Women. Fabulous! Actually, my hubby could be in that calendar. We are almost 50-50 on chores. We take turns mowing the lawn and actually fight about who’s week it is to do it. Not because we don’t want to but because we WANT to. It’s often the only time during the week I can listen to my ipod. Plus I love the way it looks when it’s done. This week he also tackled and beat the mountain we call laundry. Really, I can’t complain if, when he thinks to clean the bathroom he misses getting around the toilet on the floor or if, when he dusts, he doesn’t actaully move things, he just dusts around them.

    Like Kate, I’m lucky, too. But don’t tell my hubby b/c I don’t want it going to his head!!

    Mandy  |  April 21st, 2008 at 8:10 am

  • My husband and I learned early on that a key to a peaceful and happy marriage is outsourcing. We both hate housework and neither know anything about maintaining our yard. Thankfully we can afford the luxury. But I would say that my husband does do more around the house while I do more with the kids.

    Amy@UWM  |  April 21st, 2008 at 8:31 pm

  • Fantastic article for two reasons …

    1. Chores are an interesting element in my marriage of over 8 years. At the beginning of our marriage, my wife detailed a few non-negotiable constraints including the need for a weekly house keeper. This seemed odd as a requirement but I now know how important this is. We both work (from home) and are lucky enough to have two beautiful daughters. My wife likes things clean and orderly and … well … I’m a guy who doesn’t see dirt like she does (as you referenced). Our house keeper is worth every penny and has become part of our family. If money becomes tight, we would gladly give up cable, take-out, and even vacations to retain our marriage-saving house keeper.

    2. It was fantastic to read your mention of Po Bronson. I read his book “What Should I Do With My Life” years ago and loved it. It helped me to make a recent risky yet fulfilling career change.

    Keep up the insight articles!!!

    Jay Espaillat  |  April 22nd, 2008 at 10:31 pm

  • Kate: Very lucky! It’s great you two break the mold on this one!

    Mandy: I hate vacuuming, but I do love the way things look (and feel) when I’ve vacuumed. Now, if only I could hear my iPod over the din of the vac…

    Amy: It sounds like it evens out in the end for you guys!

    Jay: Thank you! Your wife is a very smart lady, setting the ground rules clearly from the beginning! :) Honestly, though, i don’t think I know any married men who see dirt the same way their wives do, regardless of who does the cleaning…

    Lylah  |  April 22nd, 2008 at 10:53 pm

  • Argh! Don’t even start me on this issue. I mean, really. I will not be able to put the cork back in the bottle. I mean metaphorically, of course. I don’t drink and type. :)

    Diane  |  April 23rd, 2008 at 8:43 pm

  • [...] is why housecleaning is anathema to me — the work needs to be done again nearly the instant you’ve finished doing it. [...]

    The Queen of Procrastination is ready for Halloween - The 36-Hour Day - Work It, Mom!  |  October 30th, 2008 at 12:47 am

Work Life Balance Stories

Check out our best tips for balancing work and home life.

Quick & Easy recipes

Browse our favorite quick and easy recipes, perfect for busy moms.

Ask & Answer Questions

What working moms are talking about on our question board!