Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

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Here's where we keep you updated on news about parenting as it relates to division of responsibilities, career versus home decisions, work/life balance, and legislative and grass-roots movements toward equality or better choices for families. We'll also throw in our opinions of life as equal parents in a nonequal world, regardless of what's in the news.

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Equality Blog

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happiness is Sharing the Load

A New York Times article today describes two new sociology studies on happiness. The results of both studies show that men are now happier, on average, than women. Similar data showed an opposite result in the 1970s. Why? Theories include the fact that women are handling the 'second shift' of housework after their own paid work each day, whereas several decades ago they did not have this extra load outside the home. So they are just plain tired. Or, perhaps it is the fact that neither gender has time any longer for the level of housework that female homemakers did before - and women are more bothered than men by the resultant dirt and grime. So they are frustrated.

How could we fix this problem? According to the book Alone Together, published earlier this year, the only housework division that results in two happy partners is one that is equally shared. Any other division makes the person who does less the happiest. So, going with the idea that equal sharing is the key to fixing this happiness discrepancy, we need to find ways to motivate men to do more housework and teach women to let go of controlling how and what gets done.

Women are afraid that if they let go and stop doing more, the house will fall into complete disrepair. Men are afraid that if they pitch in at full volume, they will have to do everything 'her way' and there won't be any end to the chores...no time at all for relaxing. Neither partner can win.

The problem is that the couple has not agreed on the chores that need to be done, say, in a typical evening, and the standards for how they are done. What if the woman has 10 things in her mind that need to be done before she can rest easily? What if the man has maybe 2? If they agreed together that 6 of these things are mandatory, he might be motivated to quickly accomplish his share so that he can enjoy his evening. If she can let go of directing him, checking up on him, and reminding him, and really let him do things his way, maybe happiness will equalize.

What do you think?


Blogger mom said...

Yes, yes, yes -- it makes a big difference. I watch in our own home, where the gendered division of labor creeps us off kilter, it impacts our marital happiness. In the summer, my dh's jobs pile up, as he is the outside guy -- the lawn, the garden, etc. mount, while I am more free. In the winter, however, I begin to gripe about the burden as holiday gift shopping, cookie baking, and card writing tip from pleasurable to stressful... spring and fall, when we have more balance, I think we do much better.

Everyone needs to have their needs met in order to be happy, and it's hard to get your needs met when you are shouldering too much of the load...

Of course, the incentive for righting this imbalance with the current order of things, tends to belong to women. How do we promote male responsibility for this corrective and work on it as a team?

1:40 PM  

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