Kathleen Parker over at Townhall has a great article on a new housework report that was published saying that--wait for it, you'll be shocked--women do more housework than men.
Wow. It's a good thing they had a study to show us that. But just in case the results didn't come out that way, they made sure not to measure things like household repairs, mowing the lawn, servicing the car, or anything that men usually do. Only dishes, vacuuming, and caring for the kids qualified.
And women are on the losing end. Men don't do their share.
Parker is a little perturbed by the study, because it seems to insinuate that women would be happier if they never married. Besides that, she adds
One obvious, if partial, reason is that habits change gradually over the course of generations. Another explanation is less palatable, especially if one views housework as comparable to following the elephant walk with a shovel. Men and women have different attitudes toward domestic "chores."
I would never say that women enjoy housework more than men do because I have no special affinity for firing squads. But decades of experience suggest that most men don't value the results of housework as much as women do. Could it be their nature?
Let's be clear. Men don't get a pass for being slobs and women shouldn't have to clean up after anyone older than 5. I personally have a special death mask that I wear when the four males with whom I've shared a roof the past 20 years fail to notice that towels are not rugs. One rictal glance their way and tidiness suddenly becomes an irresistible urge.
Even so, they will never meet my standards. If they do, they'll need behavioral therapy and medication.
As I wrote in To Love, Honor and Vacuum
, some men wouldn't notice a dust bunny unless it obstructed their view of the television. And I told of one woman who was so sick of doing the dishes she steamed and fumed and decided she would just leave them until he did them.
There was only one problem. Her husband, before he married, liked to use every dish in the house before doing dishes. Having dishes on the counter didn't punish him. He honestly couldn't care less. So she was only punishing herself.
Now I'm not saying we women shouldn't get our husbands more involved in housekeeping, especially in childcare. But I think these measures of housework are a little bit silly, and not just for the reasons Parker mentioned.
I think a far better question would be, "how many hours do you work a day?" Add up everything that a woman does, and everything a man does, and then see who comes out on top. Many men do work really hard, it just may not be at home. And how do you classify reading to your children? Is that work, or not? What about having a hear-to-heart with your 4-year-old? Work? Or good for the soul?
And here's another thing that bugs me. The study's implicit assumption is that 50-50 is the best model for marriage. But it's not. If you're expecting your spouse to do his share, then you're always looking at him asking if he's living up to his end of the bargain. I think we should each put our all into a marriage--100-100. That's the model. Not waiting for him to do his share before I do mine.
Now, I'm quite aware that many women would do just about anything to get their husbands to participate more at home (again, I cover this a lot in To Love, Honor and Vacuum
). But I think the issue there is one of her feeling respected and valued, and getting enough sleep. It shouldn't be one of fairness, because how do you measure 50-50 anyway? It's impossible. And as soon as we try to, we're going to end up in conflict.
We need our spouses to respect us and support us. We don't need to each do 50% of the dishes and 50% of the oil changes and 50% of the diaper changes and earn 50% of the income. That's just silly. And we should stop pretending otherwise.