Mothers in 2013: Still Anchored Down with Cooking, Cleaning, and Childcare?
While women have gained more independence outside of the home, they still seem to be anchored down with more than their fair share of family work (cooking, cleaning, and childcare) inside the home.
Are males doing more work at home?
While males have slightly increased their contribution to family work, females still perform two times more family work than the average male (Coltrane, 2000; Robinson & Godbey, 1997; Walker, 1999; as cited in McGraw & Walker, 2004, p. 180).
Why is this?
- Couples with children tend to have more traditional divisions of household work than childless couples (Baxter, Hewitt, and Haynes, 2008, p. 260).
- Men and women in cohabiting couples experienced greater equality in household work than those in married unions (Baxter, Hewitt, & Haynes, 2008, p. 261).
- Continued idealization of the traditional nuclear family; we still strive to achieve the roles characterized for the breadwinning father and homemaker mother family model—despite growing diversity in family forms
- We have created a “gender system” in which men are valued employees who work around the clock with no time for anything besides work and women are restricted to care giving and family work (Williams, 2000; as cited in McGraw & Walker, 2004, p. 177 and Ferree, 2010, p. 430).
- Children are socialized to conform to the ideals that males are “naturally” aggressive and innate competitors while females are “naturally” nurturing and innate caregivers
- Males’ “instrumental” activities of providing finances and protecting their wives and children from harm and females’ “expressive” activities of supporting their husbands and caring for children (Kingsbury & Scanzoni, 1995; as cited in McGraw & Walker, 2004, p. 178).
- Females “specialize” in family work and males “specialize” in paid labor because it is an “efficient” means to obtain the greatest results of household utility (Becker, 1991; Sayer, England, Bittman, & Bianchi, 2004, p. 6).
- Our society distributes resources unequally and this theoretically causes the contradiction in gender and diverse family forms (McGraw & Walker, 2004, p. 186).
Okay. So you told me why mothers and women are doing more cooking, cleaning, and childcare but HOW CAN WE CHANGE THIS SYSTEM?
Educating families on the dynamics at play might help them to find balances that work best for them.
What might this balance look like?
- Creating a family work schedule that divides cooking, cleaning, and childcare amongst mothers and fathers (partners) in a manner that works for both.
- Do not be afraid to speak up if you feel trapped in a traditional gender role. COMMUNICATION is key.
- Mom takes one day off a week. Other family members take care of the household that day.
- Write household tasks (examples: sort laundry, unload dishwasher, make dinner, take out trash, pick up kids from soccer, etc) down on strips of paper. Place strips in a jar. Family members randomly draw their tasks to avoid gender specific socialization.
On a larger scale, replacing the gender system with a new system that distributes resources to families equally would greatly change society and allow women to overcome some of the barriers plaguing them and keeping them in the domestic role.
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