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

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

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!

  21. 21

    A couple of things have always bothered me about this topic.  For one, we can’t have parity until women work as many hours as men.  And women and men are stay at home parents at the same rate.  Yet we hear more about men needed to do more housework… so I’m just reminding everyone that women need to step it up as well.  You still need to work more hours and you successful women need to start marrying stay-at-home dads.  It goes both ways!
    Second.  They really need to open the study to include single men and women.  If it’s anything like my male/female friends women tend to be cleaner and spend more hours doing housework ANYWAYS.  Men should step it up but at the same time women need to lower their expectations about how clean they want things or how soon they want dishes done etc as well.  Compromise would be meeting at the middle.  Cleaner than what the man want’s but not as clean as what the woman wants.

  22. 22

    For those that didn’t click on the link.  In the combined work/housework/childcare MEN do 1 more hour.  Since I don’t see men working less what does that mean?  Women need to work a lot more and do less housework/childcare?  Women work more but keep doing the same housework/childcare while men do more housework/childcare?(Again if you add all three categories men already do more so you can’t expect women to start slacking if men actually do more housework/childcare.)  I’m not sure what the happy medium would be.

  23. 23

    Here are two more interesting, related studies that did a year ago:

    The first study found that SAH moms tended to be more depressed than those mothers who worked either full or part-time, despite the fact that balancing work and family responsibilities is challenging, as the Pew study noted.
    As far as the idea that SAH moms don’t need to work because they are more privileged goes, the study found that”…it does appear that stay-at-home mothers are more economically disadvantaged than working mothers, rather than more advantaged. And this may be directly related to education.” The more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to work. Unless a woman can obtain a good job, it may not make financial sense for her to work, and it also will be more difficult for a less well-educated woman to obtain a good job.
    Also, according to the 2009 census, today’s stay-at-home moms are more likely to be poorer, less educated, younger, Latina, and foreign-born than other moms.
    In the Pew study, working mothers gave themselves higher ratings as parents than non-working mothers, so I can see a correlation with non-working mothers being more depressed there. It’s also interesting to note that despite time spent working, parents in general are spending more time with their kids than they did in the 1960s.
    In any study, the possibility of “response bias” can occur. Wikipedia defines it as “a type of cognitive bias which can affect the results of a statistical survey if respondents answer questions in the way they think the questioner wants them to answer rather than according to their true beliefs. This may occur if the questioner is obviously angling for a particular answer…or if the respondent wishes to please the questioner by answering what appears to be the “morally right” answer.

  24. 24
    Sparkling Emerald

    Helen 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 –
    Helen, I respectfully disagree. I think more women don’t want to admit that they want to SAH.  You’ve never seen “Mommy Wars” break out on blogs, with the women clawing each other over the way they choose to balance home and economics ?  True, there are SAHM’s who look down their nose at career women, but there are also career women who act like SAHM’s are just stupid, lazy women leeching off of their poor down trodden husbands and setting back women’s right to the stone age. And since SAHM’s are only 14% of all moms, which group do you think gets marginalized more ?  There was a thread on this blog (don’t remember the topic) where one woman just kept ooozing venom in her posts about how awful SAHM’s were. 
    We sacrificed a lot so I  stay at home with our son when he was young. It was what we both wanted.  Couldn’t pull it off completely economically, so for a few years I ran a day care out of my home, and for a few years worked part time evenings while his dad worked days.  We shared one car,  rarely ate out, I shopped thrift stores, garage sales, Factory 2 U, &  bargain bin at Target.  Took advantage of every freebie kid activity there was.  I must admit there were a few times when I felt like an overworked, tired,  trapped housewife, but MOSTLY I felt EXTREMELY lucky to be able to stay home and drink in every precious moment watching my boy grow !  Now that my son is grown and those baby years are gone, i am so happy that I had that time with him.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And I couldn’t care less who approves or disapproves of that choice.  When my son recently told me that he would like to someday have a wife who stays home with the kids (if she was willing to) it almost brought a tear of joy to my eyes.

  25. 25

    It’s perfectly valid to stay home with children but I don’t think it’s biology. It’s not how we’ve always done things and working mothers is nothing new.  Long before work and home  got separated in the industrial revolution, children would be strapped to their mothers’ backs as the women want a-gathering or go out in the fields with their parents,or play in the streets with their neighbours while their mothers worked around the house (work as in real hard labour).   The wealthy would farm their babies out to wet nurses, and a nurse or governess would do the bulk of the childcare. 
    We’ve adapted to the new world order by staying home or making other arrangements cos we can’t take children to work (though in some places you can).  I can see the benefit of it, especially when children are small but it’s not an option in all cases.  Some women just don’t want to do it, even if they thought they did.  Not all men earn enough.  Not every couple can have children.Women may be looking to the future when the kids have left home and not want to sacrifice their career forever. Husbands might get sick, injured, made redundant or die.  Or you might get divorced. 
    Even if biology is God, whose to say that evolution hasn’t thrown up a species that is infinitely adaptable and able to escape what is written in its genes?   Maybe that’s what has made us so successful.  We might put a man or woman on Mars. We can figure out who should do the washing up in our own personal circumstances.

  26. 26

    “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.”

    I don’t know what it is like in USA, in uk though with the economy how it is. Many women have no real choice and have to go back to work full time to pay the bills and the mortgage. As when they bought a house it was based on both peoples earnings. And so the reality and facts are that those women are working as many hours as the men and doing more hours cleaning and doing childcare, running themselves into the ground.
    I the scenario you quote above Evan RARE women with very high paid jobs I would have though that by marrying someone in their same social high earning bracket that they are able to pay for nanny and cleaner etc.
    Hasn’t this always been the way for the RICH? They had domestic help, even the women who didn’t work.

  27. 27

    michelle 16: “mature”?  Remember that before you make another statement, as you did in the previous thread, about how you wonder if all feminists are ugly and cannot get men.  That statement is immature, in case you were wondering.  A mature person does not insult others in this manner.
    Justme 13: absolutely; the stigma works both ways. The ideal is to remove stigmas for both men and women regarding what types of work they are interested in pursuing, whether in the home or in the office. Until those stigmas are removed, it’s difficult to read a great deal of meaning into certain parts of this report.

  28. 28

    @#14 Michelle
    I was also a SAHP for many years Michelle and I enjoyed it. I only had one child though, I strongly suspect *I* would have enjoyed it far less if I had 2 or more. I knew women who enjoyed staying home, those who were wistful about the possibility, and those who couldn’t wait until their maternity leave was up so they could get back to work. The one’s who enjoyed their jobs outside the home were not “depressed and unhappy”. If you didn’t want to debate biology why did you feel compelled to use it in you POV?
    @Joe K
    Since you are interested in the stats let’s look at those. One third of adults “say it’s best for young children if their mothers do not work at all outside of the home.
    Presumably that means two thirds of adults don’t believe that it is best. Which is statistically significant. The majority of those surveyed didn’t believe it was best. Double the number of people who did. As far as mothers working part-time…the statistic was larger…42%.  That isn’t a majority either. It also doesn’t define part-time: 10 hours a week? 15-25? 25-35?
    And it appears both men and women were surveyed regarding their feelings about women staying home with the children. Would we see a statistical difference if only women were surveyed about this? What statistics might we see if men were surveyed about the idea of men staying home with their children either full or part-time? Or either gender staying home with their children? And who is being surveyed? People who have children? Those who don’t, but have a definitive idea of how they want them raised? Sometimes the complacency one has about parenting when they don’t have children goes right out the window when they actually are raising children.

  29. 29

    I love getting some of you riled up, that usually happens when the truth hits home 🙂
    I can also see from these posts that it’s difficult for people to keep things big picture.  Pretty common…

  30. 30

    My folks did it a different way, and could arrange to have one parent home during the day (usually mom), and the other would be home at night (usually dad) until we kids were all in school.  Of course, it was only because they had careers that allowed for such an arrangement which is unusual.  I’m not really convinced they arranged it for equality’s sake though, but just because it’s what worked best for the family.
    I’m happy to see the work/homelife responsibility scales have tipped to become more even so that both mom and dad have the opportunity to feel productive inside was well as outside the home.  I know some stay-at-home-dads who LOVE being able to do so and I’m glad that mom could pull in the dough to support that.  However, I also do think a lot of families would feel more secure if the cost of daycare wasn’t as prohibitive as compared with a parent not working.
    No matter what, though, there are still only 24 hours in a day.  I think the saying is definitely true that “if you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.”

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