What kind of household tasks do you see women doing in your home, or in the homes of your friends or relatives? What kind of tasks do you see men doing? In your opinion, is housework usually shared evenly between men and women?
In the opinion essay you are about to read, the writer, Jessica Grose, says that mothers on average spend more time on caregiving and household work than fathers do. Is that true in your own family or in other families you know?
In “Dads Still Get Extra Leisure Time. Moms Are Still Subsidizing It.,” Ms. Grose writes about this uneven division of labor:
Last week, President Biden signed an executive order meant to make child care more accessible and affordable. Though it remains to be seen how much of this order will go into effect, or what impact it will have, it’s an indication that solving the child care crisis is somewhere on the priority list. It’s pretty much the first glimmer of hope for a more functional child care system since Build Back Better’s demise, and a sign that the Biden administration is paying attention to the ways parents have struggled since the pandemic started in early 2020.
And, despite the now-predictable grumbling from many employers over the normalization of remote work, new data shows that it’s unlikely that Americans will return to our pre-Covid way of office life. In March, my newsroom colleague Emma Goldberg looked into the numbers and found, per one academic study, that “27 percent of paid full-time days were worked from home in early 2023.” According to another survey, Goldberg reported, in Manhattan, “only 9 percent of employees were in the office five days a week, underscoring the reach of hybrid arrangements.”
That kind of flexibility is coveted by many of us, across demographics, including, particularly, working mothers, according to a report published in February by Future Forum (a consortium supported in part by the instant messaging provider Slack): “Location flexibility continues to be valuable to parents, including 84 percent of working mothers. Fifty-nine percent of working mothers say they want to work outside of the office three to five days a week compared with 47 percent of working fathers.”
If the Biden administration is able to make good on its efforts to ease the child care crunch and more employers accept that remote work appears here to stay, that’ll be, at least, a measure of progress for working moms. But there’s an aspect of our day-to-day that seems stuck in gender-normative quicksand, despite the tectonic shifts of 2020. And that’s the do-it-all culture around working mothers. There, the pace of progress is glacial, with a headline from earlier this month in The 19th pretty much saying it all: “Even When Women Make More Than Their Husbands, They Are Doing More Child Care and Housework.”
In that article, Chabeli Carrazana reports on new data from Pew Research Center showing that despite increases in female earnings and labor force participation over the years, women in different-sex relationships still do more household work and caregiving, and men in those relationships who work outside the home don’t pick up the slack. According to Pew:
This is true in egalitarian marriages — where both spouses earn roughly the same amount of money — and in marriages where the wife is the primary earner. The only marriage type where husbands devote more time to caregiving than their wives is one in which the wife is the sole breadwinner. In those marriages, wives and husbands spend roughly the same amount of time per week on household chores.
Students, read the entire essay and then tell us:
Have you ever talked to your parents about how they decided to divvy up tasks like cooking, cleaning, yardwork, repairing broken items, driving you to school or events, helping you with homework and so on? If yours is a single-parent household, do other family members or friends help out with some of these tasks? Do you think your parents ever feel overwhelmed or burned out by housework and child care?
Did the coronavirus pandemic change responsibilities in your household? Do either of your parents work from home now? If so, for some or all of the time? And has that changed what and how much they do around the house?
Do you help out at home? If so, what do you do? If you have siblings, does everyone do the same chores and spend about the same amount of time on those chores? If there are differences, why? Does gender seem to be a factor in who does what work and who does more work?
If you plan to live with a significant other someday, how do you hope to handle the division of household labor? Will you try to keep it equal in terms of time and effort? Will you base your decision on what chores you like to do? On how demanding your jobs are or the amount of money you each make? On traditional gender roles?
What was one quote or statistic from Ms. Grose’s essay that stood out to you — whether because it surprised you, reflected your experience at home or something else? What did that piece of information make you think, feel, remember or wonder?
Do you think that in the future, the division of household labor and child care will not fall so significantly along gendered lines? Why?
Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.