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What Psychologists Know that You Don’t

Women Unite! How to Get Your Man off the Couch

You don't have to be the only one cleaning up after the party.

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"Honey, the kids need pencils for school." You, ladies, know exactly what this means. You're supposed to run out and get those pencils.

It's the same way at a friend's house for dinner. You are the one helping to make the dinner and clean up. Meanwhile, your charming husband gets to relax and chat with the other husbands about the new Stephen Hawking book on the origins of the universe that you've been dying to read. So what if you have your PhD or your JD or your MD?! Right now, it's your XX (sex chromosome) that is relevant and the division of labor that follows from it.

Now, if you are like many of the readers who responded to my August 19th post "Why Your Wife Hates Sex and What You Can Do about It", you don't believe that women do more than men around the house. Here is evidence for this claim:

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In her American Journal of Sociology article published in March, 2010, Jennifer Hook cited statistics on men’s and women’s housework in 19 nations between the years 1965-2003. She reported that the average time spent on cooking per day during those years was 18 minutes for men versus 113 minutes for women. The average time spent on housework was 16 minutes for men versus 102 minutes for women.

I should mention that in the most recent year, 2003, the gap between the sexes was not as wide. For instance, in the U.S. in 2003, women spent around 3 times as many minutes on housework each day as men did. Dr. Hook noted that even though the gender gap has narrowed, women are still doing more of the work that is required on a daily basis, like cooking and grocery shopping. This regimented work often feels more like a burden to whoever is assigned to those tasks (i.e., women).

Note that these statistics excluded child care. Women today overwhelmingly do more childcare on a daily basis, even when both spouses are employed outside the home. This means even more regimented work for women.

In fairness to men, when we say, "Sweetheart, the car has a flat tire", we expect him to kick into action and change it. Likewise, if the window is leaking or the roof has a hole in it, he takes over. Most important, when we bolt upright out of our sleep in the middle of the night and whisper, "Honey, I heard a noise in the living room", we know that our superman is going to charge downstairs ready to take a bullet to protect us! (while we dial 911).

The bottom line is that these gender roles constrain both women and men. One reason he seems lazy is that he may not feel comfortable rattling around in someone else's (or even your) kitchen. If you want your husband to help more at the next dinner party, here is what I recommend that you do:

1. Round up the women (who are already probably running around and helping). Tell them that you want to help make the work equitable by assigning everybody a task. Get them to agree that at some point, they are going to let the men take over.

2. Sweetly explain to the men how you would like the tasks to be divided. (Example: We women are going to make the dinner, and afterwards we would like to relax while you clean up, sound good to you all?)

3. After the dinner, put the cleaning items in the husbands' hands and move all the women to the living room to relax.

After reading this as a woman, you might feel angry. Shouldn't you be able to just go to the living and have a cigar with the men if you want? Yes, of course. But then that just leaves more work for the other women at the party to do...

...and if you are a man who already does tons of housework and childcare, thank you! (This article wasn't about you.)

 

Anita E. Kelly, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame. She is author of The Clever Student and The Psychology of Secrets.

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