Among different-sex parents who work full time, mothers log an average of five more hours of paid and unpaid labor than fathers, which is obviously a great obstacle in our efforts to achieve marriage equality. Despite the gender equity progress we’ve made, the idea that women are “better” caregivers and homemakers still persists. The Atlantic writer Joe Pinsker was curious about how these dynamics played out at home among sociologists who specifically study gender roles. The researchers he spoke to came up with three key suggestions for evening the homemaking playing field.
Drop the stereotypes
University of North Texas sociologist William Scarborough says the first step to achieving more equal work and homelife dynamics in his own family was abandoning the notion that women are naturally more suited to child rearing than men. He notes that his toddler used to behave better at bath time with his mother, but Scarborough refused to give up on tasks that seemed to come more naturally to his wife. Even though bath time took twice as long at first, eventually it became a regular part of their routine.
Thank your partner
The second strategy, identified by Ball State University sociologist Richard Petts, is to simply thank your partner for the work they do, big and small. Acknowledging the hard work your partner does has been shown to reduce negative feelings surrounding homemaking tasks. Plus, thanking your partner can help you identify if there is perhaps a work disparity. If you’re constantly thanking your partner for emptying the dishwasher, you can recognize this and take initiative next time it’s clean.
Make chores a team effort
It can be difficult to divide up chores evenly, but doing them together can make these tasks less tedious and help split the workload. Daniela Negraia, a sociologist at the University of Oxford, tells Pinsker that she and her husband pick one day of the week to tackle chores together, which makes the work go by faster and feel less alienating.
Pinsker notes that even among professionals who study gender roles for a living, issues still arise. For example, although Petts and his wife split tasks around the home evenly, he receives far more praise for his work than his wife, as friends and family see a man taking on childcare and homemaking as going above and beyond expectations. However, there are some advantages to tackling these issues as sociologists. Understanding the fundamental cultural and societal factors behind gender norms in the home allows couples to adopt more of an “us versus society” approach, rather than a “you versus me.”