Sharing Housework is Rare but Benefits Men

female breadwinner, gender equality, divion of houseworkAccording to a newly published European Social Survey, men in Northern European countries whose female partners did most of the housework were more likely to experience conflict than those who took on a larger share of the domestic chores.

In the UK, a staggering 70% of all housework is done by women, even in families where women work over 30 hours a week. Not surprisingly this is creating a lot of tension. Resentment builds if women are trying to do it all while he does very little to help. To this point, last week I did another interview for the HuffPost Live, on the topic of managing female breadwinner relationships.  Yet again, I suspected they wanted me to explain how tough being the main breadwinner is in on my husband and our relationship. The truth is, it’s not – and he’s told that to them when we’ve been interviewed together.

Geoff does as much, if not more than I do around the house. Our division of labour has always been evenly split, but if anything, since my business has grown, he’s taken on even more around the house to support me. I’m not smug and know that a large proportion of women are not in that situation. He simply says he likes to ‘have a happy wife’ – which seems it should be a pretty basic fundamental for most couples. My parents raised my brother and I with the mantra ‘that if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!’ It might sound draconian, but making sure the mother of the family is happy should be a basic, since so many of the domestic responsibilities revolve around her.

The biggest irony is that according to the research funded by the ESRC (European Social Research Council), it’s the men who would be better off if they took on more since it relieves unspoken hostilities in the household. Sure, he could watch television whilst she makes dinner yet again after a full day at work – but is it worth it if they fight more frequently and as some other research suggest, have less sex?

According to this latest research, the biggest gains in equality in domestics have been made by women like me, women without children. It’s the children that often makes men and women revert back to stereotypical gender roles. In fact, perhaps relatedly, the survey showed that the arrival of kids increases the burden for women. While children had a positive impact on men’s well-being and no impact on their feelings of conflict, it was a different story for mothers. In this case, children had no impact on a woman’s sense of well-being and a negative impact on their feelings of conflict. Looks like it’s time for fathers in particular to take on a bigger proportion of the housework and childcare. The pay off? Less stress in the family – who doesn’t want that at the end of the day?

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