Female Writers and Editors Weigh In On the “Chore Wars”
Our most recent edition of the Bunch Poll in the National Post
A recent Time Magazine cover story, titled “The Chore Wars,” examines the amount of labour, both paid and unpaid, that men and women put into the household. Current research says that in families with young kids, where a mom and a dad both go to work, women are working just 20 more minutes each week. While it’s true that women spend more time on childcare, men make up for the difference by logging more hours at work. And yet, working moms report that they feel as though they’re doing more than their fair share.
We felt compelled to ask asked some hard working women whether or not this statistic – that working moms and dads put in basically the same amount of labour – rang true for them.
Lori Leibovich, Huffington Post Executive Women’s Editor
If there’s a way to measure psychic energy, women would log many more hours.
Jane Buckingham, author of the Modern Girl’s Guide to Life and founder of Trendera
On the one hand, I absolutely DO think men are way more involved. Being dads more than “fathers” and helping around the house far more. However, I might guess that women are underestimating and men might be overestimating a bit. I’d also guess that women, by their nature, are multi-taskers, simultaneously cooking dinner, doing a load of laundry, reading a story and returning a call to the boss. I’m not saying this is better, but I would guess that this causes them to feel like they are doing more and feel more stressed. In addition, I would guess they might feel like they aren’t doing ENOUGH, whereas the men are probably pretty proud of themselves for the time they are putting in (versus their own fathers) and don’t feel much guilt at all. So somehow the women still are having a tough time!
Tracy Moore, host of CityLine
My household is atypical in that my husband takes on MORE of the daily childcare and chores than I do. He works from home and therefore gets stuck with many of the household duties. He plans all the kids’ meals (I hate cooking), takes the toddler to daycare each morning and watches the baby until I get home every afternoon. While I count my lucky stars that I have a co-parent in my husband I also feel guilty from time-to-time for not fulfilling the lion’s share of my “motherly” duties.
Annie Urban, phdinparenting.com
The problem with these studies is that each family is unique. I think they are useful in terms of looking at general societal trends, but I don’t think they can adequately explain how any one family divides the labour or how any one working mom feels about the load that she carries.
If the statistics are representative and if moms and dads are truly putting in a similar amount of work, perhaps the difference is in the type of work. Being responsible for children is rewarding, but also physically and emotionally draining. They have a lot of energy and there are just so many different things to take care of and to remember. Trying to deal with all those little things, even if each one is a short task, is more exhausting to me than sitting at my desk and working on a report all day.
Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books
While these studies are valuable in that they show how family life is changing over time, they can be as frustrating as they are illuminating. I don’t know of any study that accounts for the planning and organizing time and the thinking work that mothers do. The problem is that so much of what mothers do is invisible.
She spends her lunch hours and her breaks trying to trouble-shoot problems at her child’s school — or scheduling dentist and doctor’s appointments. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, she starts worrying about who is going to be available to pick up her son from the school bus on days when she has to work late. (Her manager has just announced a new schedule that comes into effect in a few weeks’ time.) She tries to anticipate and avoid situations that could cause her working life to collide with her family life. This causes her no small amount of stress, even if nothing out of the ordinary is going on in her life right now. The mother tends to be the emergency preparedness manager, the community liaison officer and the transportation manager and the health and wellness coordinator and so much more. Because many of these activities are invisible (they are part of the thinking work that mothers are always doing), they aren’t accounted for by studies that measure his contributions versus hers. But any mom can tell you that the thinking work of being a mother far outweighs the physical work. That’s the easy part.
Anne Weintraub, Editor in Chief Glo.com
I am very lucky (and I really, really try to never forget it) that work and family duties are quite balanced between me and my husband, as we work similar hours and spend comparable time with our son. I think the secret to maintaining the work/chores parity is that we focus on what each of us is good at and rarely stray from our designated roles—whether that’s cooking vs. laundry, or bills vs. doctor appointments. I never pretend that I’m going to transform overnight into a gourmet chef, and he won’t attempt to determine what needs hand washing or dry cleaning. As a result, each of us simply focuses on the fastest way to get everything done in our domain, instead of on one another’s shortcomings. We’re domestic specialists.
Lisa Belkin, writer New York Times Motherlode blog
I think the reason the number doesn’t ring true for the women I hear from is because women seem to process and experience these chores and responsibilities differently. The statistics measure actual time spent on chores, NOT the amount of time spent noodling, and planning, and carrying lists in your head. The stats also don’t measure the feelings that come with not getting certain chores done. I think men process this as stress, yes, but women also process it as guilt.
Image via Time