Broad generalizations are dangerous, but here’s a statement I can confidently say is true most of the time: women are turned on by men who clean. My husband is positively dashing while doing dishes. Clean the gross upstairs shower and the day will, ahem …, have a happy ending.
Why is this so? Because true or not, most women perceive that they bear the burden of housework, even when they work full time outside the home. In her book For Better, Tara Parker-Pope says research shows that 10 percent of men feel the division of labor in their home is unfair. By comparison, a whopping 60 percent of women complain of carrying an unfair housework burden.
Add kids into the mix, and the disparity becomes even wider. Parker-Pope says a mother’s domestic labor increases on average by 12 hours a week once a baby arrives; men, on the other hand, add just two hours of extra work to their week. Yikes.
Even if this isn’t true in your home, it could be the operational perception. Several marital therapists and psychologists (including my favorite, John Gottman) encourage couples to use lists of household chores to identify who is really doing what, and then map out an ideal chore-sharing plan.
Gottman’s book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” includes just such a list, which I skimmed on the train home from work this afternoon. If you’d asked me before I looked at the list about our division of labor, I would have said I carry a bigger burden (understandably, since I work outside the home only part time). But as I looked at the list I was surprised to find that Cliff deserves more credit than I was giving him. I also found a few areas where the division of labor has happened by default, rather than by discussion. Perhaps it’s time for a chat.
If you don’t have Gottman’s book, you can do the same exercise using the list found at this link.
A true 50/50 division of labor isn’t always practical. But some couples do aspire to share every responsibility, especially parenting, evenly. If that’s your goal, then you may want to follow the “Equally Shared Parenting” (ESP) blog by Marc and Amy Vachon.
The Vachons were recently featured in a Boston Globe piece on ESP. Jenna Russell, author of the article, writes: “The most common misunderstanding about their approach is what they now call the 50-50 myth – the idea that their family life runs with mathematical precision. ‘It’s not about putting a hatchet down every task,’ Amy Vachon says. The goal is not to fixate on who does what, but for both to be fully invested, not only in the doing but also in the thinking and planning, so both know what needs to be done, without being asked.
Isn’t that what we all want? To know our spouse is invested in the thinking, planning and doing of our shared daily lives. Without being asked.
More Housework = More Sex
Men, here’s a dirty little secret: give a little more in the kitchen, and you’ll likely get a little more in the bedroom.
A study of 300 American households, cited in For Better, found a consistent parallel between housework and sex. When both spouses were satisfied with the division of labor, the couple had sex one time more a month than among couples dissatisfied with the division of labor.
How do you leave your wife feeling satisfied? Take out the trash.