3. There’s a Psychological Component
Studies have shown that in households where the woman is the main breadwinner, the more she earns, the less her partner will do in housework apparently to not been seen as even less masculine. The woman in this situation may scale back her career ambitions to compensate for the extra housework and childcare she does and to care for her husband’s ego. This situation is reinforced by the special credit men get for the chores they do.
4. It Requires Sharing Power and Authority
Power-sharing means sharing parenting and child-care, sharing household tasks and responsibilities, sharing decision-making, and being committed to equal to career and employment status—this is a big deal, particularly for men.
Like Fray says, “It’s not 1960 anymore.” His warning is important because many men seem unwilling to let go of traditional gender roles despite the influx of women, their wives, in the workforce.
Tips On How To Even Up Housework And Child Care
1. Get Rid of “His and Her” Standards
Despite what we have been told, there is no standard definition of what has to be done in a household nor how it should be done. What is a clean bathtub? What constitutes doing the laundry? Do you have to do the dishes immediately after dinner?
Before you start making a list, share your implicit ideas about who should do what. Talk about the way you were brought up—who did what and why.
2. Keep a List
It is a good idea to start with a list or spreadsheet of the chores that go into running a household and caring for your children. If you are going to set new standards about the way this is done, you will need to start with a “clean” sheet—it allows you to visualize and take mutual ownership of unpaid work at home. Writer Tiffany Dufu (“home control disease”) and her husband made a spreadsheet of tasks with columns for “his“ and “hers”—and one for “no one.”
For working couples it is a good idea to do less and care less about tidiness and neatness: don’t make the beds, don’t repaint the ceiling, etc. Outsource what you can as a way of cutting down on housework.
4. Gatekeeping Wives and Clueless Husbands
Gatekeeping is when your wife might limit your involvement in housekeeping or child care duties because you’ll “do it wrong,” or “I’ll do it because it’s really quick and easy for me,” or “I do it the way I like it to be done.” The clueless husband is “the man who is lost in the domestic space without a woman”—an image of men that is normalized in the media.
5. You Will Have To Negotiate
To make this all work out, you will want to learn how to negotiate. The negotiation that takes place in marriage is not the kind that one sees in business, where each party is trying to maximize his or her own gain at the expense of the other. Nor is it a quid pro quo (tit for tat, you do this for me, and I will do that for you) kind of negotiation. Take the time to learn how to negotiate in marriage.
Advice About Being Married
Kudos to Matthew Fray* for figuring out his part in why his wife initiated a divorce. As he said, he passively let his wife take on the management of their home and children because of what he calls “accidental sexism.” It is no accident that Fray says, “It’s not 1960 anymore.”
- Being an “accidental sexist” doesn’t work for 21st-century marriages.
- While husbands today are likely to support their wives working, they continue to avoid equally sharing the management of the household.
- To fix this inequality, husbands must pay attention to what is going on and women must avoid the “home control disease.”
- Evening up the chores requires you to establish your own standards of cleanliness, start with a list to challenge old assumptions about who does what, care less about tidiness and neatness, and negotiate everything.
*Fray is a pen name used to protect the identity of his wife and young son.
Written by: Catherine Aponte, Psy.D. Originally appeared on:Psychology Today Republished with permission