We had a little incident at my house on Friday. My son staged an epic battle on our kitchen counter: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles faced off against some unruly Lego Stormtroopers. While my back was turned for approximately seventeen seconds to cut up strawberries for the baby’s snack, my son opened the dishwasher, threw two of the turtles inside near the bottom hinge of the door, balanced one on the top, and slammed the door as hard as he could, three times in quick succession.
I am now in the market for a new dishwasher.
And I must confess: having to hand-wash my dishes for the past few days pretty much brought me to my knees.
I know how utterly absurd that sounds – having a broken dishwasher is such an uptown problem. But throwing this one additional chore on top of my other household chores, my legal work, my writing, and the bonus fun of getting the kids completely prepped and packed for summer camp (which started this morning), felt completely and totally overwhelming.
You know who wasn’t overwhelmed? My husband.
Why not? Because it absolutely didn’t occur to him to help me wash the dishes. I don’t think it even crossed his mind.
This is NOT a post bashing on my husband. He’s awesome, and generally helpful, and even if he wasn’t I probably wouldn’t be talking about that here. But it is kind of a mind-blower to me that in this day and age, working women still do so much more housework than working men. Even in my house, with my rad, supportive, feminist husband by my side.
In fact, studies show that on a typical workday, nearly 50% of working women will do housework in addition to their paid job. This is true for less than 20% of working men. And unlike childrearing, which may have a biological component (this is the argument that women are hardwired by nature to be caregivers), there is no biological determinant for housework.
So why is it still so unbalanced? Why did I automatically assume the task of hand washing the dishes for the entire weekend?
I am very sorry to report that the studies show one very plausible reason for this: lessons learned in childhood. Children watch their parents and repeat their patterns, and it’s quite likely that our moms did a lot more housework than our dads when we were little. Plus, little girls today still do more household chores than little boys, and are less likely to receive an allowance for doing them.
I read these studies over the weekend, completely aghast. I do not want this imbalance to continue for my own children when they’re adults! I want my son to be an equal partner at home, and I certainly don’t want my daughters handling more than their fair share of household chores when they’re grown.
I suppose awareness is the first step in correcting the situation, but beyond that I am not even sure how to begin. Has anyone ever implemented a full family chore chart, and if so, was it successful at all? (Notice how my lawyer brain immediately defaults to a chart/spreadsheet.) I will take any and all guidance on this one. Because clearly my husband and I need to do better than this. For our son and our daughters.