Of Husbands And Housework

Katie Young
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Wednesday - April 16, 2008
| Del.icio.us

Attention all women: If you don’t like housework, I’d advise against getting married. Husbands are a lot of work.

A study conducted by the University of Michigan recently found that having a husband actually creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women.

The findings of the national study on housework trends were based on time diaries where researchers looked at a 10-year span of data from the study, which has been ongoing since 1968 at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

“I can believe it,” my friend Alice said when I told her the study’s findings. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life!”

Alice has been married for four years and doesn’t have any children yet. I remember the first thing she told me when I talked to her six months after her wedding: “I feel like I’m constantly cleaning! I pick up the living room one day and the next day it’s messy all over again!”

Alice is not alone. I, too, marvel at the amount of housework I suddenly have to take care of. Of course, part of it is because since getting married I now live in a house instead of an apartment. This means double the living space to dust, tidy, vacuum and mop.

I’ve often wondered just how many hours of my life I spend trying to liberate the dust bunnies from under the dryer. Half the time I think I’m just moving them around the house with the vacuum, not actually sucking them up into a final resting place.

This is not to say that my husband doesn’t do any work at all. The University of Michigan study, however, found that, for men, getting married has the opposite effect on their cleaning time, with wives saving husbands about an hour of housework a week.

(In 1976, U.S. women did an average of 26 hours of housework a week, compared to 17 hours in 2005. Men did about six hours of housework a week in 1976, compared with about 13 hours in 2005).

So even though men are doing more than twice the amount of housework compared to 20 years ago, they still fall short of a woman’s workload.

My husband maintains that he does even more housework since marrying me than he did when he was a bachelor. This is probably true. (Of course, the standards of his bachelor cleaning rituals are still in question.)

When I was growing up my parents split up household chores. My mother dusted, vacuumed and cooked our meals and my father did the dishes, washed the cars and took out the trash. I’d say things were pretty much even.

So this is how I’d like my marriage to play out. Especially with most families in Hawaii being two-income households, it’s unfair to leave all the housework to just one person.

I do know several couples, however, where the woman still takes on the majority of the chores, mainly because the mess really irks her, whereas the husband doesn’t have as many issues with the laundry or dishes piling up as high as Mauna Kea.

This is where the discussion comes in. You might have different cleaning “styles.” I can be a bit of a neat freak and prefer dishes be done, well, now. My husband prefers to wait until the end of the night to do them. Either way, as long as the chores get done, does it really matter when? For some people it does.

So a good solution, I think, is to split up the duties and have an agreed upon timeline for them. Every two weeks, mow the lawn. Every night before bed, the dishes need to be done. Laundry is washed and folded on the weekend. Vacuuming takes place on Sundays.

If everyone knows when things need to get done, then there won’t be any surprises (or potential arguments) if it’s only 7 p.m. and the dirty dishes are still in the sink.

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