The Curious Case Of Why Women Are Still Doing The Dishes
It’s a man’s world. Apparently.
I’ve always deeply appreciated the fact I came out of a childhood where I got to benefit from the best of both worlds.
My mother was a stay-at-home parent until I was about 10 years old, and then she went back to school so she could get a job. I never felt like I wasn’t enough for her, I always understood it was about my mother wanting to finish something she’d started and feeding her dream of building a career for herself.
Everyone’s situation is different, and switching things up through childhood can be complicated, I know. I’ve talked to friends who had stay-at-home mothers and hated it – invariably because they grew up with helicopter parenting or a parent who resented having to sacrifice their life to stay at home for them, and took it out on her kids. Conversely, I also know plenty of people who resented constantly being carted to daycares or relatives’ houses while they were growing up, because neither of their parents were around to help them with their homework or watch their ball games.
One thing that’s pretty universal across all situations of people I talk to though, seems to be the fact that no matter how many parents were working, the mother in most homes was always expected to do the chores afterwards; she came home from work and made dinner, did the dishes, and put the kids to bed. Even if she made more money or worked longer hours than her parter, the expectation was the same across households.
It’s something I didn’t think about much when I was younger, but as I’m growing into adulthood and entering a period of my life where I’ve considered the possibility of living with romantic partners, it’s floated up to the surface.
Why can’t men handle household chores?
Globally, women are making huge strides in industries historically dominated by men; slowly but surely we’re beginning to undermine traditional gender stereotypes by taking on more roles once deemed masculine. Yet, curiously, research shows we’re still spending on average double the hours as men are, doing domestic work, such as cleaning and cooking, at home. According to a 2014 study by OECD, women worldwide devote an average of 4.5 hours each day to these tasks, while men contribute just two or less.
“A woman in a heterosexual relationship may opt out of work because the man’s salary is higher, or paying for good childcare would cost more than she earns, or breastfeeding would be more difficult at work,” says University of Washington professor of public policy, Marieka Klawitter, who’s studied gender trends in the workforce extensively.
“We all create narratives about why we’re doing things, but those narratives are driven by conditions out there in the world.”
And Klawitter has a point. We live in an era where we’re continuing to take meaningful steps toward gender equality, but certainly haven’t eradicated sexism. Not every husband still considers his wife his property, but men are battling against the ideology of a generation who never thought to teach boys how to do the basics – surely their obedient wives would make sure their underwear got washed?
Taking care of the work around a shared house, or with a shared child, should really be simple: the person with the time to do the thing should do the thing. If your husband gets home earlier than you do, why can’t he start dinner or take the kids to baseball practise? If you work weekends and he’s home on Saturdays, he should be expected to man (no pun intended) the vacuum as well as you can.
Because frankly, as insulting as it is to women to assume we should be taking on the beastly burden of the home, it’s just as insulting to men. It implies they’re too cavemen-like to imagine doing the dishes or making dinner unless they can brag about the animal they’re roasting on a grill.
So bake cakes, men. Whip up a batch of cookies for your kids. Sweep the hallway, do your wife’s laundry, and for the love of cheese, do the dishes. Pitch in. And then ask yourself why you haven’t already.
Image via giphy.com.
Comment: Who does more housework in your home?