While working on my Women and the Law paper, I ran across a law review article entitled "The Focus Factor" by B. Glenn George (15. Tex. J. Women & L. 147). Here is one excerpt that I found quite interesting:
Susan Maushart's Wifework describes the reality of marriage, or rather being a wife, as a “nasty shock.” Weaving together her own experiences (two divorces, the second leaving her as a single parent with three children under the age of five) with research studies, Dr. Maushart makes the case that marriage is often a bad deal for women in virtually every respect, while men reap significant benefits from the arrangement. “If you are female, marriage will make a huge difference--and a surprising proportion of that difference will be negative. Becoming a wife will erode your mental health, reduce your leisure, decimate your libidom, and increase the odds that you will be physically assaulted or murdered in your own home.”
According to one study, marriage means fifty percent more laundry, seventy-three percent more cleaning and forty-nine percent more cooking for the wife. The husband, on the other hand, reduces his time on such tasks compared to his single state. Thus, the presence of the husband adds to the wife's workload (eight hours per week, according to one study) without bringing with it the “extra help” a “modern” woman might expect--or at least without bringing as much help as the eight hours he is adding to burden. And Dr. Maushart is talking here just about housework without the additional commitment of childcare. Add children to the mix, and mom is performing five times as much childcare duties as dad. Another study described husbands' avoidance of laundry as “notorious.” Even when both husband and wife work, the wife does all of the laundry in eighty-five percent of these relationships.
Whether of not the wife is employed has surprisingly little impact on the balance of housework performed by a married couple. Indeed, the difference between men with working wives and men with nonworking wives comes down to ten minutes--men with working wives perform ten minutes more housework per day than men with non-working wives. Other studies report a negative correlation for men between the number of hours worked and the hours spend in domestic work; in other words, fewer hours worked by the husband translates into less work done around the *161 house. To the extent that studies indicate a more balanced division of labor when both husband and wife have demanding careers, the balance is explained by the fact that the wife is “off-loading” more of her domestic labor hours to paid help (help generally arranged by the wife); the husband rarely contributes by shouldering an increasing load.
Dr. Maushart's colorful style captures the essence of these statistics with enough humor to soften the depressing reality. In discussing the culturally ingrained practice of “performing services” as a way for women/wives to express their love, for example, she notes the apparent absence of the proverbial two-way street:
In one particularly revealing incident reported in a study by Dr. Francine M. Deutsch, Dr. Deutsch reports on a family in which both parents work full time, but the wife worked significantly longer hours than her husband. The wife worked an average of seventy-five hours per week as a clinical social worker, while her husband averaged 41 hours per week *162 as a speech pathologist. Yet, in spite of this significant disparity of time availability, the wife continued to do most of the housework. When asked to explain this apparent anomaly, the husband responded that he “didn't enjoy and wasn't interested in doing the cooking or laundry.” How does one even begin to respond?
I have to say that this excerpt resonates with me because I sense the Knight and I will have a dispute one day based upon this traditional split (or rather dumping) of chores on the wife. Right now, we live apart, he works long hours, and I am taking a mere 12 hours this semester. When he comes home for the weekends, he helps by vacuuming, loading the dishwasher, and cooking occasionally, while I take care of the laundry, dusting, mopping, bathrooms, and general pickup.
One reason why he does so much less is because the mess is mostly my mess. Also, he works a lot more than I do, and drives 3 1/2 hours one way to see me for the weekend. A final reason for my doing more, which I think the article should have addressed more closely, is that I like the way I clean a lot better than his method (plus, I secretly like doing the laundry). My guess is that a lot of other women feel the same way (well, except for the laundry part).
Sometimes now, we fight about his contribution to the household chores, but since there are a multitude of reasons why he could be excused from doing anything right now (as I just mentioned above), I usually nag a few times and let it go.
However, once we both live in Memphis together, and we are both working, a serious compromise of chore-splitting will be essential. Either that, or we'll hire a maid. Or maybe go "Big Love" style and get a wife. Or a robot? Any other suggestions?