Men Do Twice as Much Housework and Childcare as They Did in 1965

a father spending time with his children on the table

I sent this article to my intern. She set it up on the blog with the title “Study Shows Fathers Spend 50% Less Time on Parenting”.

I’m telling you this because it’s a fascinating microcosm of how statistics can be used to illustrate almost anything, depending on your perspective.

While more women are working full-time than ever before, that does NOT mean that this is what most women actually WANT.

The REAL reason I posted this article, of course, was not to illustrate that Moms are better than Dads at child-rearing – what constructive good could come out of that?

I posted this piece from Pew Social Trends to reveal that, in general, men and women have different thoughts about what they want their domestic lives to look like.

For example, “While a nearly equal share of mothers and fathers say they wish they could be at home raising their children rather than working, dads are much more likely than moms to say they want to work full time. And when it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule.”

It’s important to emphasize this. While more women are working full-time than ever before, that does NOT mean that this is what most women actually WANT.

“Only 16% of adults say the ideal situation for a young child is to have a mother who works full time. A plurality of adults (42%) say mothers working part time is ideal, and one-third say it’s best for young children if their mothers do not work at all outside of the home.”

While my intern put the emphasis of the article on statistics like this: “Analysis shows that fathers devote significantly less time than mothers to child care (an average of seven hours per week for fathers, compared with 14 hours per week for mothers),” such statistics are incredibly misleading about the larger trends, which show that men are doing nearly three times more childcare than they were in 1965 and two and half times more housework, while working almost the same number of hours.

As for women, they’re doing 14 hours LESS housework and putting those hours instead towards PAID work, something that was far rarer in 1965.

The real fact is that, in order to have a successful partnership, SOMEONE has to work less and take care of the house and kids. And if you’re a career woman who does not want to take her foot off the gas, god bless you. No one is judging. It just means you’d better find a man who is willing to work part-time to handle domestic duties.

Or marry really rich, which is what most of my clients are still trying to do. 🙂

Read the report here and share your thoughts below.

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  1. 1

    Evan, what is left out of this report and its analysis is that women feel real guilt about admitting that they want to work full-time. There’s a stigma associated with women preferring work to staying at home – a stigma that doesn’t exist for men, because men have traditionally been full-time workers.   Many people who hear a woman admit that would think all sorts of evil things about her: she’s cold, she’s a b*tch, she’s uncaring, what does she have children for, etc.   Even I, for all my bluntness, would feel shame admitting to a Pew  researcher that I want to work full-time, given that we have two children.
    I would not be surprised if those guilt feelings and social stigma influenced some of the results shared here.

  2. 2

    Well in an idea world no one would ever work and we would all spend our time doing what makes us happiest! But since we aren’t in an idea world, most families do need two incomes and hire some sort of help. That’s what I would prefer to do, cleaning is indeed a real chore to me. I would gladly work my 40 hours and pay someone to clean the house once a week then to pull back my hours to 20 and have to care for the house. I am more of a throw money at it person, not terribly domestic. As for children. I only intend to have 1 at most and would like to take some time off at the beginning, luckily my employer offers paid family leave and I can accumulate sick and vacation time. So in the long run I don’t plan on taking more than 6 months off from a job that is already flexible.

  3. 3

    The one who does the most work takes the most control.   It can happen that husbands are only allowed to share these tasks if they are done a particular way. That said I suspect that most men give up the struggle very quickly. I spent 16 years on my own before marriage. I expected to housekeep but my way was never the right way.   In the end, I was pushed out of the (simpler) maintenance too.   This is a dating blod, so the issue is how to form an idea about how housekeeping and child care will work out before becoming committed. Compromise seems to be the word if the work is to be shared. If awoodman is working then letting go some of the housewife and mother identity may be a requirement.   I was allowed tO iron my shirts by a full time housewife.

  4. 4

    My Mom worked, raised me & my sister, and did everything around the house.   EVERYTHING.   My Dad never lifted a finger; he didn’t even mow the lawn.   Things have changed a lot b/c men never did “women’s work” when I was growing up in the 80s & 90s.

  5. 5

    Oh, Evan, unless you can find Karl R to come in stat, I fear this is going to quickly devolve into all sorts of misrepresentations and statistical contortionism!

  6. 6

    Exactly, which is why women are depressed & unhappy, they often have to work against their biology.
    On the other hand, many people don’t want to make the choices and sacrifices necessary to make these scenarios happen.

  7. 7

    Yesterday when I came home from running errands, my next door neighbor came out to show me her new granddaughter. One month old. While I was cooing over the baby, her 30 yr. old mom came out. “Yeah, I’m pretty partial to her too” she says. It’s revealed she is going back to work 90 days after the  birth. Grandma says, ” She makes too much money to give up.” Daughter says, ” I really like my job and I found a good day care for her.”
    I found the exchange illustrative. In 2013, a mother still feels the need  to explain why or why not she is staying home with the baby. The question is never asked of the father.    Why do you suppose?

  8. 8
    Valery North

    Which ever way you spin those statistics, it looks as though we’ve got another 50 years to wait until men and women contribute equally to household chores!
    Helen (#1) above hits the nail on the head: the important thing about understanding statistics like these and interpreting them, isn’t what people say they want, but the reasons they give for wanting them, and how those relate to how they think others will view them.     There is far more social pressure in terms of the “blame” laid on them, for women who “abandon” their children in order to work, compared to men – and far more pressure on men to be “the breadwinner” and not “let down” their family by working fewer hours.     For a man to say he wants to spend less time working is to make a conscious decision to go against what society says he should do, whereas saying he wants to work full time is more likely to be an unconsidered response (that is, he says what he’s learned subconsciously to expect).     Similarly, when a woman says she wants to work full time and leave childcare to her husband, that requires going against social norms and making a conscious decision, whereas saying “spend more time with the kids” is just what she’s subconsciously “supposed” to say.
    I say all this as someone who was raised in the 80s and 90s in a family where my mother worked full-time and my father was the primary childcare provider.

  9. 9

    The real truth is that in the U.S. we have no paid parental leave, no sick time, no vacation, no paid childcare, no health insurance, and no safety net. Real wages for men have  decreased since the 1970s. There are few well-paying blue collar jobs. Most well-paying jobs require a college degree. College education is very expensive, requiring most to incur large debt to finance their educations. The cost of living has greatly increased. The middle class has seen an income drop over the last 20 years. Most people cannot afford to buy a home or support a family on one income.
    Given all of these factors, it is really no wonder that women, who might prefer to stay home with children, have, collectively, decided that they  are better off working or that they would be better off to marry a wealthy man. It is not irrational to chose to continue to work full time in a well-paying job given the reality of the society we live in. If we truly wanted people to have sucessful partnerships we would, as a society, support the circumstances that would provide them.

  10. 10

    @ Michelle #6
    “Exactly, which is why women are depressed & unhappy, they often have to work against their biology.
    How many stay-at-home Mom’s have you known? I’ve known women who expressed the idea that they would  like to stay at home, but either couldn’t afford to, or their partner didn’t want to lose their income. And I’ve known  some who were bored out of their mind staying home taking care of their children 24/7. Depressed and unhappy is more often a condition of having to do something   one would rather not do  –  rather than your  definition of biology Michelle.

    1. 10.1

      Since my husband has more physical power than I do, it’s important for me to have the main financial power, if push comes to shove.   THerefore if either of us stays home with children, it will be my husband.   

  11. 11

    @Helen #1
    “I would not be surprised if those guilt feelings and social stigma influenced some of the results shared here.”
    Wow, and there it is Evan – Helen wins the prize for denying stats when they don’t agree with her worldview/agenda. (Nevermind that admitting to wanting to be a stay at home mom has been a far more risky statement in the US since certain players in the feminist movement labeled such thinking as “traitorous to women” in the late 60’s and 70’s.)
    These studies are anonymous Helen…or do you not realize this? I guess you ignored that because you need to make women victims of something – since you can’t (or are unwilling) to argue the merits of the stats, you “excuse” women’s choices as not their fault because of social stigma. Frankly I find your argument offensive to mature, smart women who aren’t afraid to acknowedge what’s important to them when you make the (unsubstantiated) claim that they are simply “afraid”. Such blatant victim attitude.
    Perhaps, just perhaps, the women who were interviewed actually answered honestly and are more focused on flexibility in their work options and aren’t “victims of social stigma”.
    To quote:
    “And when it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule
    There are a number of ways to approach critical analysis of these stats – I see flaws myself. But I won’t offer them here, because you’ll just cherry pick and misrepresent them anyway.

  12. 12

    “And when it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule
    This is still due to society norms.   It is women’s responsibility to care for the family.   I have a friend who was the sole income for her family while her husband was out of work.   During that time, if he had plans to do something during the day while she was at work, it was she who arranged for the care of the two kids.   In my home, it was always my responsibility to clean, cook, and care.   And if my husband helped out, he was helping me with my jobs.  
    Selena is right and Helen are correct, women still have to defend whatever decision they make; stay at home or work.

  13. 13

    Btw – I also think men who choose more family over career, whether they are the ones who look for flexible schedules or be stay at home dads also have to justify their choice as well.   And face being judged.

  14. 14

    #10, I’ve been a stay at home Mom Selena, and knew plenty of stay at home Moms.   I worked part time in the evenings.   Those were the best years of my life, and I feel blessed to make the decision to have this opportunity.     Was there drudgery taking care of kids, you bet!   However, I got to be with my kids when they were young, able to do the errands and taking care of the house during the day so when my husband came home, dinner was made for him and the kids and  we  had low stress time together to spend as a family during the weekend.   Eventually I did go back to work full time, and I would have preferred to continue to work part time but I had a non ambitious husband.
    You might want to re-read Evan’s post that talks about the statistics about how women really feel about working full time.

    I don’t want to expend the energy debating that a woman’s biology is built for bearing and raising children.

  15. 15

    #11: whatever. You have already shown in other threads that you are biased against my comments, so it is hard to be concerned about your statements.

  16. 16

    #11 JoeK, I thought the same things when I read Helen’s post.     As a mature woman, mother and wife, I made decisions that were good for my family, not in consideration of what people thought about me.

  17. 17

    Valery and Selena: yup.    Note, Selena – “biology” crops up again!
    This article brought to mind a wonderful article I read by the son of Joan Feynman, the sister of Nobel laureate Richard Feynman.   It’s called “My Mother, The Scientist” by Charles Hirshberg,   Here is the story of one woman with brains far superior to the average Joe, who was repeatedly repressed in a world that tried to “keep her in her place” as a woman. What a stark contrast to the situation of her brother.
    It makes me sad to think of the amazing female brainpower that has been squandered through centuries, if not millennia, of suppression. Thankfully times, they are a-changing. Arbitrary social norms that keep people from rising to the top of their game, to the height of their talents, should be eradicated.

  18. 18
    Karl T

    I nominate JoeK for president!   My cousin Karl R would be so proud of you!   Well stated, sir, and well predicted in your earlier comment.

  19. 19

    I agree with Selena @7. Women are just expected to stay at home and still have to justify it so that they don’t sound like a bad/uncaring mother. Men just don’t have the same expectations, just to be the breadwinner. A mother has more societal expectations.
    The good thing is enabling men and women to have more maternity/paternity leave. It’s better when both parents can share the responsibilities. Men can only step up to the plate as fathers if they are given permission by society, namely the corporate environment needs to evolve. Or if they as a group start demanding more paternal rights. I don’t know if that will happen anytime soon but certainly for men who are self employed and/or run their own business, it is easier to work your family responsibilities around raising the child.
    I’m not a fan of daycare but would like more facts on its long term effects. I know for some parents they choose to so that both parents can work but at the same time I do wonder if it harms the child or prevents them from forming appropriate social attachments to their primary caregivers. I think people are too tied to their fancy homes and big cars and the feeling of being busy and productive to want to give up their job. I’m sure childrearing can be boring at times.
    We are spoiled here. I went to cambodia last year which is the poorest country in the southeast asia and it’s eye opening. we have so much and children work there to support the family. they don’t have the luxuries we have but still seem content

  20. 20

    A self-report study is a type of survey, questionnaire, or poll in which respondents read the question and select a response by themselves without researcher interference. A self-report is any research method which involves asking a participant about their feelings, attitudes, beliefs and so on. Examples of self-reports are questionnaires and interviews; self-reports are often used as a way of gaining participants’ responses in observational studies and experiments. Self-report studies have validity problems. Participants may exaggerate in order to make their situation seem worse, or they may under-report the severity or frequency of symptoms in order to minimize their problems.”
    All that said, I personally believe that every woman wants nothing more than to stay home with her children and cook, clean, and support her husband’s wordly desires. And I mean every woman. In the entire world. It is basic biology, which is the kind of biology that women have. Just basic biology. Female biology=baby. End of story. Male biology includes more complicated things like building, warring, hunting, doing math, figuring everything out for women, ejaculating, and, if you are a male monkey, peeing into your own mouth. But women–real women, I should say–just want baaaaaaaybeeeessss!!!!
    This is my self-report and my choice of boldface text, and I’m standing by them both! As a woman who represents every woman!

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