Men and Housework
For the past few weeks, the parenting news has been all about 'The Feminine Mistake' and mothers' roles (or lack thereof) in the breadwinning domain. This week, it's all about the housework domain instead.
BusinessWeek.com's Working Parents blog posted an entry asking why women are always stuck with the primary housework role and respondents posted passionate agreement or annoyance with this stereotype (Amy was one of the posters - her comments introduced the concept of ESP and how true equality can be attained). Then, another Working Parents blog entry featured some of our own ESP tips for sharing housework - cool! Yesterday's Working Parents blog further explores this issue; the blog author suggests that perhaps the main reason why men are not still equal housework contributors is that either their partners are not communicating their dissatisfaction or that women don't think men's cleaning is up to snuff. I agree with this assessment, especially the part about women gatekeeping the housework. Amy and I know it doesn't come easily sometimes, but shifting the housework standards from the woman's to the team's standards is absolutely necessary for long-term, happy equality.
And today's Working Parents blog features yet another discussion of housework equality, this time with comments from me. I was interviewed earlier this week by Anne Tergeson, author of the original blog that started this topic at BusinessWeek.com. Hopefully some of my ideas for attaining true and lasting equality will be helpful to readers.
Finally, Linda Hirshman's piece in the New York Times yesterday about the importance of women working outside the home (written in a strangely kinder-and-gentler tone that her usual style) touches on the issue of housework (and childraising) inequality with this statement:
"Sociologists have found that mothers (rich and poor) still do twice the housework and child care that fathers do, and even the next generation of males say they won’t sacrifice work for home."
I'm puzzled by where she got her data on the next generation of males, since the sociologists quoted recently (e.g., Kathleen Gerson in The American Prospect's Mother Load issue in March) are saying quite the opposite. Young men value balanced lives more than powerful careers, say the sociologists I read, and they want and believe in gender equality in their marriages. They may not know how to achieve this equality, and they may wimp out at the current cultural and workplace barriers, but at least the desire is there.
Dr. Hirshman concludes her piece with a solution involving changes in the tax code. There may be merit to her suggestion, but I still believe that the desire for a balanced and happy life is what will motivate individual families to even out the housework, childraising, breadwinning and recreation time.