Husbands and Wives Worry Differently

Husbands and Wives Worry Differently

Yes, this is a blog about dating and relationships, but I always find it interesting to share pieces about gender dynamics as well. One of the more interesting subjects, I find, is about the concept of “equal” parenting. To recap recent studies, men have come a long way in terms of helping out with the housework and childrearing as compared to men in the past, but women still take on the lion’s share of domestic duties, overall.

Shulevitz of the New York Times wrestles with this:

“I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t. Disregard what your two-career couple friends say about going 50-50. Sociological studies of heterosexual couples from all strata of society confirm that, by and large, mothers draft the to-do lists while fathers pick and choose among the items. And whether a woman loves or hates worry work, it can scatter her focus on what she does for pay and knock her partway or clean off a career path. This distracting grind of apprehension and organization may be one of the least movable obstacles to women’s equality in the workplace.”

My wife is a stay-at-home mom after a 16 year career as an international events planner. Staying home is her choice and it definitely makes the division of duties a lot clearer. I appreciate how much she does for the household and always try to pitch in as much as I can. It’s just not nearly as much, given that I work a full day as well. Where it gets sticky is in relationship where both couples work full-time and the woman still bears the greater burden.

Many husbands don’t care to pitch in and that’s a pity for the women who married them.

“No matter how generous, “helping out” isn’t sharing. I feel pinpricks of rage every time my husband fishes for praise for something I’ve asked him to do. On the other hand, I’ve never gotten around to drawing up the List of Lists and insisting that we split it. I don’t see my friends doing that either. Even though women tell researchers that having to answer for the completion of domestic tasks stresses them out more than any other aspect of family life, I suspect they’re not always willing to cede control.”

Shulevitz finds the division of duties unfair, and, at the same time admits that she prefers to have control, rather than ceding it to her husband. I would suspect that many women feel the same way. She continues:

“I’ve definitely been guilty of “maternal gatekeeping” – rolling my eyes or making sardonic asides when my husband has been in charge but hasn’t pushed hard enough to get teeth brushed or bar mitzvah practice done. This drives my husband insane, because he’s a really good father and he knows that I know it. But I can’t help myself. I have my standards, helicopter-ish though they may be.”

As a dating and relationship coach for women, the only breadwinner in the household, and a full-time liberal who believes in equality and fairness, I am sympathetic to all sides. Many husbands don’t care to pitch in and that’s a pity for the women who married them. But for those of us who do offer to help out, we are frequently told that we can’t do anything right, so why even bother? All those sitcom jokes about inept husbands come from the fact that wives often control the domestic domain to the point where husbands become like helpless children, waiting to be told what to do by the boss. It’s a no-win situation for anybody, but one bearing our attention. How do YOU manage domestic duties in your relationship?

Join our conversation (25 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1

    We are skipping the kids thingy, so that’s a big one out of the way. But there is still a house to clean and maintain, a front yard, a backyard, and a garden to keep going, groceries to purchase and meals to cook, and a puppy to train.

    I do care more than my husband about having home-made and nutritious meals (without having to cook everyday), and therefore about having the adequate groceries for my weekly meal plan. I also do care more about clean toilets and sinks. Therefore I take care of these tasks, from organizing to completing the work.

    He cares more than I do about the lawns, the garden, and the floors in the house, as well as fixing things around the house so the hubby declared himself in charge of organizing and completing these tasks. He does all of that spontaneously, from writing his to-do lists, to buying supplies and doing the work. I just admire the results, and say thank you : )

    I’m also more into human beings, so I’m doing the PR work as well. I get birthdays and holidays cards, coordinate gifts, and organize get-togethers. The hubby cares more about the puppy, so he does most of the puppy walking, poop collecting, driving him to day care, and training.

    I also do most of the finances stuff, such as tracking all our expenses, paying bills, etc. Mostly because I like doing these things in a certain way (is that called controlling? ; ), and my husband is happy to let me do it as he likes the end result but does not care about doing it himself.

    In general I’ve been happy to be doing more work than my husband as my day job is less stressful/exhausting than his and I also bring home less income. It’s my way of contributing equally to the household. Would be different if we wanted to have kids but we don’t. Since I started a training/second part-time job and we adopted our puppy my husband has been taking up more tasks, and I’m really grateful to him for that. Part of it is him taking over a task without being asked, part of it is me asking him to do something I would originally do. It goes both ways.

    As usual, it’s about communication, and striving to be easy-going and generous with one another.

  2. 2
    Isobel Matheson

    I live by myself these days, and absolutely love it

    1. 2.1


      No bickering, no ‘who did this,’ ‘who did that,’ ‘who did more,’ ‘who did their 50% share’… etc.

      The feminist goal of 50/50 everything was always a pipe dream and always will be, unless call rights and responsibilities can be divided exactly evenly all the time.*rolls eyes*

      This is why traditional arrangements still work best, just as they have for generations.

      Am I a regressive?

      There are plenty of housewives who like having a breadwinner husband, and there are plenty of breadwinner husbands who like having a housewife. It’s a functional codependent relationship.

      Now with the advent of feminism and “strong, independent woman,” that’s a wistful memory.

  3. 3

    Besides working full time, I also run a side business, so I am not into doing housework when I come home. Some weeks, between my side business and full time job, I work 70+ hours, so the absolute last thing I want when I get home is to be pestered with chores and projects.

    Now having said that, if I were married, I wouldn’t expect my significant other to do everything because she would be tired after a long day as well. The simplest thing to do would be to hire a housekeeper so that she is not overwhelmed and I am not overwhelmed. That is what I do now. I have a housekeeper that takes care of these things.

  4. 4

    I live alone and do everything myself from house work to yard work, plus working 40+ a week and hitting the gym…’s exhausting! I would hope if I was married at this time, my SO would help in sharing the load. That will definitely be something I look for in dating.

  5. 5

    This is always a hard one. I recently read an article about how wives spend more time doing house work(Although if you added ‘work’ work it became pretty even.). But then the study when on to point out that this is even true when single. Single men don’t prioritize this as much as women.

    If we REALLY wanted to compromise it would mostly have to come from women. Today it seems the standard is having the home as clean as what the women wants and have chores done the way women want it. And to split it equally. All the while the home is decorated etc the way the woman wants. The man is lucky to get a garage or basement.

    So compromise would look like:

    Home NOT as clean as what women want but cleaner than what the man can live with.
    Chores get done. Period. Doesn’t matter how.
    Chores get rotated. Or go down a list and taking turns picking the chores.
    Man gets to decorate HALF the home the way he wants.

    If both work full time and the man works more hours. He gets to cut back on hours if he felt he was working more hours to provide more.

    I think today this would leave women even less happy. So it is the way it is.

    1. 5.1

      Why not just hire a housekeeper? The following is a HUGE generalization, but women typically have higher standards of cleanliness than men do and men generally work longer hours, so why not just hire a housekeeper, the housekeeper comes by 5 hours a week or however many hours a week that is necessary and cleans the place. The wife watches what the housekeeper does and if she is unhappy, she tells the housekeeper what to do.

      Wife is not overworked, things get done the way she likes and husband is not overworked.

      1. 5.1.1

        Very good advice Adam. Same with yard work. If neither person in the relationship enjoys any aspect of keeping house, sub-contract it out. Dr. Joyce Brothers made that recommendation over 30 years ago, in a marriage book she wrote, it was good advice then, and is now.

        1. Chance

          Not everyone can afford a housekeeper. If women want men to help out more around the house, the most obvious solution would be for women to work more thereby allowing men to work less so they can help out with more household work.

        2. Adam


          Since men typically make more, that is a HUGE generalization and is not always true, but is true most of the time, the man should work a little bit more, he makes the money for the housekeeper and then he can come home and not be worried with housekeeping or other chores.

          All guys are different, but with my schedule, the last thing I am interested in, is coming home to someone nagging me about chores or projects. I just work too many hours for that.

          And thank you SparklingEmerald 🙂

      2. 5.1.2

        Not sure how that is a compromise. Man still works more hours. Woman now gets clean home(beyond what the guy cares for) and less work at home. Man still only gets garage or basement?

        1. SparklingEmerald

          Morris – What do you mean man only gets garage or basement ?

          Chance, –
          As you say the “obvious” solution is for the woman to work more hours, so her husband will work less and use those extra hours to clean house.

          First of all not so “obvious”. In my marriage, there 5 years when I was a stay at home mom or worked part time, (we both agreed to this) During that time child care and house hold cleaning duties were my responsibility. I tried to do the yard work as well, but I have no talent for it, so it became my husbands job.

          Once I went back to work, I actually worked overtime, my hubby did not, but he had a compressed work week. So I worked more hours, ended up doing more housework, he still yelled at me that the house wasn’t clean enough, but he never used his extra day off to do chores, or pick up our son from school. He used his 3 day weekend to pursue his hobbies, and his compressed 4 day work week left him to tired to do anything during the week.

          Unfortunately, we really couldn’t afford a house keeper (I think 3 times in our marriage we did hire a one time cleaning service to deep clean) And I worked OT, because we really needed the money. To pay a house keeper would not have made sense FOR US.

          And your OBVIOUS solution would not work for most couples. (most people just don’t have the kind of jobs where they can just add or subtract ten hours from their work week at their convenienc)

          The house keeper solution works for MOST couples, if they can afford it. If not, well they just have to work something else out.

          I don’t actually believe in dividing up household chores “equally”, but I do believe in dividing them up “fairly”. By “fairly” as opposed to “equally” I mean, whatever BOTH people in the relationship think is fair.

          When I was a stay at home mom, it was what we both agreed to, so we both thought it was fair. I didn’t mind being responsible for most of our son’s care, in fact I LOVED it, and since I was home, it only made sense that I do the housework, minus the yard work, as I have no talent for it. Since money was tight without my income, I reluctantly went to work in the evening part time. Sure I would have preferred to be 100% stay at home mom, but since we needed the money I worked PT evenings and the ex watched our son in the evenings.

          Once I went back to work full time, we never did work out anything that we both thought was fair. I really think the ex got used to me handling all the household stuff, and resented any requests for “help”. I not only worked full time, but sometimes overtime was required, so I ended up working longer hours, and doing more at home. And getting bitched at over the messy house.

          So I’m sure there was an obvious solution there somewhere, but we never found it.

          And my hubby, being ex military, was way more fussy about household cleanliness than me (I am rather sloppy), but still expected it to be all my responsibility, regardless of how many hours I put in outside of the house.

          So your obvious solution in my case, would have only meant more work for me, at home, and outside of the home.

        2. Morris

          SparklingEmerald – I’m referring to the ‘man cave’ or ‘garage’. Not sure where you are from but here in the US it’s pretty common that the husband basically get’s a room while the wive gets the say in the rest of the house. It kind of goes along with the ‘happy wife, happy life’ saying.

          Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone. We’re talking in generalities here.

        3. Chance

          SE, individual circumstances differ, but the data show that the biggest differential between the sexes in time spent per day on activities is present in the amount of time spent per day at work. So, it’s reasonable to say that the most obvious solution is for women to work more so men can have more time to help out with housework.

      3. 5.1.3

        When I was in a live in relationship, having a house keeper was the best choice because we could afford it and it was a huge help as far as not arguing over house work.    my married friends swear by tactics to outsource work and would rather pay extra for Amazon prime to reduce shopping runs and stress, for example.

        A couple should talk about ways to make life simpler.   If, like my ex, neither of you have an interest in a yard, then by all means, live in a townhouse or villa type community where no yard maintenance is needed.   I actually enjoy having a yard, so ideally the man I eventually meet will share a desire to live in a SF home.   The yard would be my wheelhouse, and he could pitch in or contribute by say, grocery shopping and paying bills ( based on a budget that we have both agreed to).

  6. 6

    In my household we switch up the stereotype: I’m a woman and I have troubles with housework. I don’t want to say I’m a slob, but I have a very demanding career and I just don’t have energy for domestic duties so I don’t typically do a lot of them. This drives my boyfriend insane. He says I’m like a sloppy teenager leaving a trail of clothing, shed hair, dirty dishes, and granola bar wrappers in my wake. Telling me to “clean up” honestly just leaves me confused. I don’t “see” messes. So to remedy this (among other things) we’ve started seeing a therapist together. He also leaves me with a specific list of things he’d like me to do on a given day so I have something to reference. So far, so good. The one thing that I do enjoy is food preparation and cooking but that’s almost cancelled out by the giant mess I often leave behind! I’m working on it, though.

    1. 6.1

      Just curious, because you sound similar to my wife, do you get on him if he leaves one item laying out (among your trail of things)?


  7. 7

    I have lived on my own for many many years. Frankly, this is one aspect of being single that I like: a house decorated and tidy the way that I like it. I have a cleaning woman that comes in only once a month for the basic work. It would be great to have a man around to do some of the heavier lifting, but I get by.

    This for me is a very important consideration in finding a partner as these are the kinds of things that can often drive both people crazy — what does “clean” look like to you and how much time are you prepared to spend on contributing to a clean household?

  8. 8

    A housekeeper is a great solution, and one that my husband I employ. But cleaning is NOT the only domestic duty. Someone needs to manage the household, including finances, cooking/shopping, social activities, and child care (including their school activities, social life, and healthcare).

    Anecdotally, many of my female friends are very successful, hard-working, full-time professionals who STILL end up doing the Lion’s share of the household management.

  9. 9

    If you can afford it (and if you are a two career couple you should be able to afford it at least once or twice a week), why not get a maid or housekeeper, and garden service? I realise this still leaves certain domestic and parenting tasks for the couple to do, but it takes the bulk of the burden off and leaves those tasks which the husband and wife can divide according to what they’re good at, or what they enjoy. I don’t think “policing” or “bossing” by anyone is a good way to run a household in any relationship.

  10. 10

    Okay, here’s my first problem with this framing, right off the bat.

    hasn’t pushed hard enough to get teeth brushed or bar mitzvah practice done”

      are NOT this

    “we are frequently told that we can’t do anything right, so why even bother?  “

    and the fact that men   – as evidenced not only by this example of the way EMK begins to discuss it but also numerous experiences in my own personal life — are so frequently not just willing, but *eager* to frame it as such is certainly worth more than one eyeroll as far as this woman here (me) is concerned.
    The reason why is that not getting teeth brushed has potentially serious implications in terms of not only delay and pain for the child in question, but also additional expense for the family.   This — and any other concern with this level of detail similar to it – ls not a concern without consequence.      Just because something is at detail-level, that does not make that thing inconsequential by definition.
    (I can’t draft a similar direct concern for the second issue raised, because I don’t share the faith … but I do know that in my own spiritual family if matters pertaining to church contribution & spiritual responsibility are neglected, the ramifications are potentially dire even if they are intangible (and the shorter-term ones, such as connection to community, aren’t *that* difficult to envision, even if they’re as intangible as the longer-term effects).)
    And there’s no other concern a woman raises, related to household or health management or child-rearing, that’s framed as “petty” or “minutiae”, that doesn’t have similar long-reaching and far-reaching consequences … which, if it hasn’t yet occurred to you gents, is precisely the reason — at least the first reason – *why* it’s worried about so much.
    Further, I resent the repeated “women aren’t willing to concede control over these matters” as the kneejerk riposte to the initiating of this topic practically every time it’s raised.
    I personally am one of those women who’s completely unafraid to delegate, in terms of ceding control over these endless, repetitive, and thankless tasks.   The thing is — and I notice it’s brought up far less often — one of the reasons women more reluctant to cede control than I am might do so is because people will all too gleefully punish the wife, or the lady of the household, if these things — the physical & mental health of the children, the state of the house, health care of the household elders (I’m going through a crisis of that sort right this minute; don’t even get me started) — are not “up to” the general community standard … so OF COURSE she’s going to be more exacting about these things being performed up to that standard.
    And those of us who are more willing to delegate share that concern, which is one of the reasons the instructions / requests we give out are so detailed; even though the other thing that’s not mentioned is the hypothesis that a great many of those women who “aren’t willing to cede control”, as it’s so pejoratively described, manage the situation like that because if they DO delegate, they will ALSO receive substantial outside criticism (a fact to which those of us who are willing to delegate for reasons of effectiveness and efficiency can testify all too eloquently and also in all too much detail).
    So if we’re going to criticize women for not being “willing” to cede control … let’s pay at least a little attention to the degree to which societal and cultural forces want the situation to stay exactly that way, and why they want that, shall we?
    Husbands, mothers-in-law, and society in general get a scapegoat to criticize when things don’t go precisely according to plan, and as the article says, these endless, thankless tasks take energy and focus away from a woman’s professional performance, so everyone who has a vested interest in saying “women aren’t right for these jobs of leadership” somehow has a quasi-performance-based argument to support his or her (the latter all too sadly, but that’s another discussion) biased positions.
    The fact that   women somehow manage to achieve professionally in the face of the totality of these shenanigans remains a sheer miracle, but nobody seems willing to devote an awful lot of attention, energy, or ink to that phenomenon either, somehow.
    /things that make you go hmmm

    In the face of this nice little setup in their favor,   in total — women get all the domestic concerns dumped on them, criticism if they ignore them, criticism if they delegate them, little or no help with them, and men get the time they don’t devote to those concerns to get & stay ahead of women in their careers — what could men and husbands possibly even have that they could  be worrying about …?

  11. 11

    God. My Mom is this woman. It had some kind of reverse effect on me. I HATE cleaning. I’ve always wanted a man who likes doing dishes. I will probably also end up not being the disciplinarian with kids.

  12. 12

    I really think that if both people work, the household duties should be shared equally, bearing in mind each sex’s physical ability.   I personally cannot mow a lawn or carry heavy things.

    This is one issue which really wrecked my first marriage (he thought it was his task to come in and sit down and the washing/ironing/cleaning/buying and cooking of food, changing nappies and baby feeding) was to be done by fairies or ME.

    This is unacceptable.

    In a future relationship, either there is sharing of tasks or a housekeeper or cleaner.   No way would I be used like that again (and I rather enjoy housework, doing the accounting, hiring a window cleaner, etc.).

    We are women and men, and in that context, we both need to rest.


  13. 13

    People hiring a housekeeper?!? 😂 laziness! I have no pity for a married couple or a relationship that work 80 or less a week each! First it’s starts off at this. If you two own a 1000 plus sq ft home and have to up keep the home and the two acres that come with it. a pool, hot tub. Vegetable garden, and flowering garden and up keeping each others vehicles cosmetically or mechanically,it should be split in half. The woman does the inside work and all of it ladies. And the man takes care of the outside work and the Up keeping of the vehicles as well and yes all of it to boys. And this is without having children. why do people make a big deal about who does the dishes or who’s cooking or who’s mowing the lawn? Seriously?!?! A true mans part of the household is up keeping the outside chores and a true woman will take of the inside of a home like cooking cleaning washing dishes clothes (ironing clothes is rare these days) but that’s not the point. A woman keeps a man happy by keeping a house clean, clean clothes and full stomach every night! Simple as that! And a man needs to do his part by keeping the exterior looking nice and tidy.   And let’s be honest if a man can’t up keep the exterior of your home and land and vehicle maintained, ladies, your in a marriage/relationship with a lazy boy! And like wise for woman with the interior! Man and woman are equals together so do your half and quit complaining or blowing it off! If I offended anybody, I’ve claimed victory 😆😂😜

  14. 14

    First, let’s try and bring some fairness to the idea that men don’t participate equally.   Most of us do.   Where we do not participate is in the inequality that women create.   If we (men) buy something we expect and do take care of it.   We do not buy large houses that we then shop incessantly to fill and upgrade as a status symbol.   If we buy for status we maintain what we buy ourselves.

    Look at the state of most women’s domiciles before marriage, then compare that to post marriage; after that compare it to post parenthood.   The majority of single women are not living in too large spaces in immaculate cleanliness.   When a man marries he is buying into a certain level of maintenance…one based on his perception of the woman he marries maintenance requirements, based on what he has seen of her home while dating.   Think back, those of you marrieds.   Remember the somewhat clean but messy state of her apartment/house/whatever?   Yes gentlemen that is what you assumed you would be doing half the work to maintain.   Given that, you are probably at a level of at least double the work you signed on for (typically you are probably at about half the level of ‘your’ stuff that you used to maintain alone).

    We just went on a trip to the beach.   Personally and anecdotally, I and most men only care to go to the beach when single to watch/meet women.   That aside, the amount of absolute junk we ‘have’ to bring is incredible…and it’s not just the beach, it’s any trip.   There are grocery stores at the beach that we inevitably go to.   They are not grossly overpriced so why do we have to bring a week’s worth of groceries?   Why on earth did we take an ice cream maker and a bread maker?   My wife is, in comparison to the average woman, not bad as far as hovering over the children (I stay home with them…though that’s not enough assurance that everything is being handled [which it is]) or needing new swim suits, etc. but we still packed double what I would have taken…and guess who loaded the car in the 90 degree heat.   Hint, it was not her.


    So I would posit that the ‘problem’ is not men pitching in badly, but women exponentially increasing their requirements for assistance.   This is across many spheres – child care, housekeeping, psychological/emotional support; all while reducing (in most cases) men’s availability to have/do the things that they value (which are vastly different than what women value).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *