I Can Bring Home the Bacon…I Can Fry It In a Pan

April 30th, 2008 by Rainey

Then I can clean the pan while entertaining the baby. And I can use the leftover bacon grease to make some sort of useful household product. I can use some of the bacon in a quiche for the next night’s dinner. And I can finally make sure that the bacon I did not use is wrapped up and put back in the fridge so that it can be used to make lunches later on in the week , wiping off the counter and stove as I turn off the lights and head up to bed.

Women: Know your limits

Though I can say with some authority that our household is far less bacon-centric than it sounds, the point is: A woman’s work is never done. Or at least sometimes it feels that way.

There were some interesting studies done in this past year about housework in the homes of married folks. We all know that women are working full time more than ever before. Interestingly, studies have shown that though women are working outside the home just as much as men in many cases, the housework still predominantly falls to the woman in the relationship.

In an interview on NPR’s Marketplace, Frank Stafford, a University of Michigan economist talks about this phenomenon. Here’s a transcript of the interview:

Frank Stafford: Well, the new finding actually is we looked back to 1996, where we had single women, single men living on their own, had never been married before. And then as you go forward 10 years to 2005, some of the women had gotten married and their housework went up from about 9.5 hours a week to 16 hours a week. But what’s different is that if you look at the young men, the bachelors had gotten married, their house work went by up about 2.5 hours.

Napoli: So, to be fair, married men are doing more housework then they were before, it’s just still not on par with women.

Stafford: That’s right. Way, way back 40 years ago, for married women housework was truly their occupation. They were putting in 40 hours a week doing housework. Today it’s probably down to 20-25 hours a week, which is still a lot.

Napoli: Inequity seems to start early, because you’ve studied the chores and kids, and it looks like the boys get money for the chores more than girls do, yet girls still do more of the housework.

Stafford:Yeah, that’s actually a pattern that’s pretty intriguing. And what’s interesting, as you just mentioned, the girls aren’t told to do the housework. They aren’t specifically said, “Well if you don’t do housework, you don’t paid.” But yet they do. So, you don’t have to make an explicit arrangement to convince your teenage daughter to do more housework, compared to your teenage son.

Napoli: Most of the men who been hearing me talk about doing this interview with you, just deny that this could possibly be the case in their household. Have you anecdotally noticed that as well.

Stafford: Yeah. There is a little bit of a bias. Men tend to report more housework hours than they do when you get a better measure of their housework. But the other thing that is important when I’m talking about the housework I’ve been talking about, it’s called core housework. And so, if you have a broader definition — core housework plus doing the lawn, fixing the car, home projects — men’s hours per week more or less double from an hour a day to two hours a day. But the only point that’s important there is that most people enjoy gardening and yard work. Whereas washing dishes and doing the everyday, no one really enjoys doing that as a highly enjoyed activity.

Now…before I go any further, I am not writing this as a pointed manifesto towards my husband. I actually think we have a pretty equitable relationship when it comes to work both outside and inside the home. But the reality still exists that some “roles” seem to be ingrained in relationships.

For instance, though my husband makes dinner–and he is an amazing cook!–and does dishes when we are here at home, for whatever reason when we go back to Hwell to visit his parents somehow I end up in the kitchen making cookies, setting the table, and all manner of “wifely” things while he sits on the couch watching “the game.” Very strange. But that is how his parents’ home operates. I feel awkward trying to buck the system. Though I do make many forays into the living room to whisper somewhat loudly that he needs to get up and start helping his mom in the kitchen. His brothers look at me strangely. And then I go back to the kitchen to finish setting the table. Sigh.

I think that part of the inequality of chores in our household stems from my own desire to do it all, be everything society tells me I ought to be: an awesome mom, wife, home-maker, bread-winner, minister, etc. Well…maybe society doesn’t tell me I ought to be an awesome minister. But that is my “calling.” So there. Anyways. As I was saying. I think that I “see” things that need to happen around the house in ways that Conan doesn’t. I have been taught to care more about whether the rug is clean or the bathtub is mold-free. I mean…I think that if any of you dear readers have been to apartments of single men you know what I am saying about the bathtub. It is only when I have small nervous breakdowns about not being able to “do it all” that Conan even realizes that I am trying to do that in the first place, I think. And then he steps in and helps out like a champ.

So what is to be done? Do we start making lists of chores? Do I let the house fall to ruin around our ears in an attempt to redistribute the workload? Or do I just grin and bear it and then write passive-aggressive posts on our blog? Who can say… :)

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