"Having a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women!" announces a press release from the University of Michigan. "A wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week!" (OK, I added the exclamation points, but you can imagine the anger and marital spats triggered by these new findings from an ongoing survey of nearly 8,000 U.S. families.) Check out the chart below.
University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
As this is a women's health blog, I'd like to lower your blood pressure a bit and offer a few words to soothe any relationship discord. First of all, if you look at the chart, you'll see that both single and married women are doing less housework than we were in the 1976. Married men, on the other hand, are doing more—13 hours a week in 2005, compared with six hours a week in 1976. (They're still doing less than married women, who currently log 17 hours a week.) But this study paints only a partial picture of what's going on. It only included time spent cooking, cleaning, folding laundry, and other basic work around the house—not gardening, home repair, or washing the car. And it didn't count supermarket trips, diaper changes, or testing a second grader on spelling words. "If the researchers included all that, I'm sure it would look worse for women," said University of Michigan spokesperson Diane Swanbrow, who issued the press release.
Maybe, but not in my house. My husband spends far more time helping our three kids with homework and studying for tests than I do. He coaches their baseball team and bathes them at night when I'm making dinner. And we take turns cleaning up the kitchen depending on who gets home from work earlier. Before we had kids, I used to do a lot more housework than he did—but he was working 13-hour days at the office compared with my eight. Now, I'd say that when you lump all the child-care responsibilities in with the housework, we've got an equal split. And that's probably the case in many families. Unfortunately, this study stops at housework. I'm waiting for a more comprehensive one before I form an opinion about just how unequal things really are.