Updated: Sep 5
Updated post: 3/15/22 - Original post: 8/4/22
Why men should care: there is one very big reason
Many men are happiest when making an equal contribution to household chores. According to research conducted by the University of Cambridge, men, not women, benefited from a less traditional gender role divide in household chores.
Researchers believe more men support gender equality, and women are more assertive than in the past. Researchers said men are uncomfortable not doing their fair share of housework.
Sharing household chores ranks as the third-highest issue associated with a successful marriage, behind only unfaithfulness and good sex.
How to divide up the chores: strategies that work
In recent years, my wife and I went through a transition from her shouldering nearly all of the household chores to me taking on most of the responsibilities. I'll share the approaches we have taken working together to manage the home and the experts' advice.
I never understood how much my wife did until I did it myself. Looking back, I feel bad that I didn't acknowledge her hard work more often. For years, I worked 70-80 hours a week while she stayed home or worked a less stressful job. Over the past five years, our roles have slowly flipped.
After experiencing this, I believe there are two certainties.
You can never fully understand the time and mental energy it takes to shoulder the countless tasks of managing a home until you do it yourself.
We have a happier marriage now that I am doing more at home. I enjoy cooking, cleaning, paying bills, and helping with laundry, and this newfound time has allowed my wife to continue to thrive in her career.
Remember that every couple is different and living in different circumstances, so our best way may not be your best way to divide the household chores.
What works best for us is that we each tackle what we enjoy doing the most and the tasks that fit our skillsets. We are considerate of work responsibilities and the balancing act necessary at home to offset increased responsibilities at work. Right now, it is Hope whose career is our family priority.
Here is an overview of our current division of labor:
We are parents. How we divide responsibilities at home includes tasks to teach our children to become personally responsible. And our caregiving responsibilities seem to settle into our own approaches to parenting – Hope is the kinder and gentler parent, whereas I tend to want to solve the problem immediately. As a past educator, I typically take the lead in supporting school and homework needs.
The documentary Fair Play was released in the summer of 2022. It is based on the book Fair Play, written by Eve Rodsky, which explores inequities between married couples and their impact on wives and mothers. It is full of practical tips, and methods couples can use to share the responsibilities of managing a home fairly.
If you’re interested, I wrote a book review of Fair Play. There are a lot of good ideas in there, and the Fair Play cards can be a helpful resource to divide the responsibilities at home. There are 100 playing cards organized into five different categories, which make up the ecosystem of your domestic life:
Activities outside of the home
Joy tasks (e.g., birthday parties)
Wild tasks (e.g., managing a move)
We played ourselves, and the wrinkle that worked for us included the kids using the cards to assign tasks.
What I found to be most important in executing this approach is that it clarifies who is responsible for what. The problems we have faced in the past have often come from miscommunication or lack of follow-through in trying to share a task.
This is not to say chores should be done separately. Research has found that couples tend to be happier with their relationship when they share responsibility for each chore on their to-do list, as opposed to when each partner has their own set of tasks. For example, rather than cooking and cleaning separately, do it together, which is how our family handles the days we deep clean.
It must be said... doing chores together does not mean doing the task while your wife stands over you to ensure you complete it to her satisfaction. I know I am not alone from talking with friends, and this drives all of us bonkers.
This squares with the latest research shared by Modern Husbands Advisory Board Member Dr. Ashley Whillans of Harvard Business School on time and happiness. They found the most important predictors of quality time in relationships: Positive and present at the moment and supported by your partner.
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