Work Life Balance
British Men Are Doing More Cooking & Cleaning, Is The ‘Division of Household Duties’ Debate Over?
Oxford University is holding a conference to analyze a number of recent research papers on how the British use their time. One of the topics up for discussion is men and chores. Specifically, the fact that in the past 30 years, men have increased the amount of time they spend on domestic duties by 60 percent.
The summary of all those different studies is leading to lots of statistics, lots of numbers and a whole bunch of comparisons that might not be correct. But men are doing more cooking and cleaning! That’s a good thing!
There’s no doubt that men are helping more around the house than ever before. I can fully admit that my husband does a whole lot of our housework. He cooks, cleans and even does laundry, which the studies suggest British men aren’t touching at all! They spend a whopping 4 minutes a day on laundry. I honestly believe that lots of men realize the need to divide household duties equally and spend a lot of time and effort keeping up their end of the bargain. To those men, thank you! We love you!
But that doesn’t mean that I believe everything that came out of this research. Or maybe, I question its results. Here’s the parts that I’m hoping Oxford’s conference will do a little to clarify:
- “A mother of two with a full-time job has to sacrifice only 4 hours 18 minutes a week of leisure time compared with a childless man.” I found this line extremely suspicious. First of all,Mommyish has talked about leisure time and its varying definitions for mothers and fathers. Secondly, our leisure time might not be too different, according to their research, but what about the ways we use time? Do single men work more hours at a job? Do they sleep more? Do they volunteer more? I find it hard to believe that there’s less than an hour a day that’s spent differently between myself and single man.
- “…women work an average of five hours 55 minutes a day on employment and chores, compared with a man’s five hours 37 minutes.” These numbers include both the unemployed and homemakers, but they still seem very low to me. I can’t be the only person who sees the norm as working 8 hour days and then going home and taking care of my family. Are we including weekends in this average? For the unemployed, does job hunting still count towards their unemployment hours? For homemakers, does childcare count towards their hours? Actually, doesn’t childcare count at all here?
- “The average man now spends two hours 28 minutes on domestic duties compared with the woman’s four hours 40 minutes.” So we’re closing the gap, but women still work almost double the amount of time as men on domestic duties? So in that last figure, men were working more employed hours and women were doing more housework. Ok, that helps a little.
- “Research at Oxford University has also found that the amount of time women claim they devote to their children may be exaggerated.” So the only mention of childcare is that women exaggerate it? Really? And have you ever had a toddler whine for a 30 minutes, because that can definitely feel like six hours.
All in all, I realize that this research shows a step in the right direction. I’m thankful that many women like me have husbands who help and support them. But the numbers can only tell us so much. We, as a society, still tend to think of the household duties and women’s work. So now, we pat men on the back when they pitch in, instead of expecting it from the start.