When Will Men Do Their Fair Share of the Housework?

Last week I shared a clip from NBC’s “Today Show,” where California’s First Lady Maria Shriver discussed the changing roles of men and women. Shriver has co-authored a new report, called “A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” about the impact that the economic downturn has had on women in the US. Women have taken fewer job hits in the recession, and more men are becoming stay-at-home dads as a result of a contracted work force. However, despite these changes, women still do the majority of the housework and childcare – 86% of it, in fact.

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Shriver makes an accurate statement – that women’s lives will never be truly equal with men so long as they continue to remain the primary caregivers in our society. Although twice as many men are contributing to housework and childcare responsibilities as they were in the 1960′s, that number is still only at 30%. So my big question to you is this: when will men do their fair share of the housework? And why are we as women not demanding that the men in our lives become more self-sufficient?

This story is clearly based in heterosexual norms – they only interviewed straight couples in the NBC segment. I’m willing to be dollars to donuts that there is much more negotiating that goes on in same-sex households about the chores and childcare, because one partner isn’t automatically assumed to be the primary “bread winner” or the primary housekeeper.

What’s your experience been like? If you’re in a relationship, how have you and your partner(s) decided who does what in terms of the housework? Is your system working? How often do you renegotiate the chores, if at all? I’d love to hear your point of view.


  1. Getting men to do their share of the housework or care of children has two aspects. One is to recognize that women now earning should not have that double shift and men should pitch in. But the second unfortunate implication is that housework and care of children are both onerous, burdensome roles someone has to carry the weight of as punishment. The women’s movement is wrong to look on traditional roles that way because that actually does not advance equality. It still ignores the free labor of care of the young, sick, handicapped and elderly that governments always just assume someone will do for free, even though the economy depends on it. The real liberation is for women and men to be valued for earning but also for the unpaid work of caregiving. It should not be seen the same as housework which may be self-care since care of others is not selfish, not a hobby, and not just fooling around with your free time. The 3rd wave of the feminist movement in fact asks for more than just having men do their ‘share’ of the burdens at home. IT asks for tax policy to respect those at home roles and to fund them, consider them vital work, to give them pension benefits for the time spent tending others and to redefine ‘work’ itself away from that old male patriarchal paradigm that work only exists if money changes hands and outside the home.

  2. freewomyn says:

    Amen, Beverly.

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