It’s Not 1950: How Much Work Do Men Do Around the House?

by TTMK on February 26, 2014 · 12 comments

men doing houseworkThe following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai.  Editor’s comments are below.

More and more women are becoming the main breadwinners for their families.  In fact, 25% of all women outearn their spouses (Working Mother).  My guess is that many more women don’t outearn their husbands but earn an equal amount or close to an equal amount as their husbands.  While women and men’s salaries may be nearly equal, in many households, the division of chores is not.

Splitting the Chores 50/50

In my own marriage, for the first 10 years, I was the primary breadwinner.  During that time, my husband was in graduate school, earning first a Master’s and then a Ph.D.  While many of those years he worked as a teaching assistant, his income was no where close to mine.  During that time, we split the chores evenly–we each worked to clean the house and we each cooked meals.  The first two years of our son’s life, my husband went to school only part-time and cared for our child full-time while I worked.

Now, my husband is the primary breadwinner, though my monthly income is almost equal to his.  My husband works from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  While he’s gone all day, I homeschool the kids, do household chores, cook, and do my freelance writing as I’m able.  When he comes home, we eat dinner and then he gets the kids ready for bed while I clean up the dinner mess.  On the weekends, my husband does all the childcare, cooking, and cleaning while I spend both days doing my freelance writing work.  I can’t tell you how glad I am that my husband is so willing to shoulder half the family responsibilities.

Many men are not that way.

When Most of the Chores Fall to the Women

While more women are earning more, many of them are still doing the majority of household chores.

“’The division of labor at home has not shifted to compensate for women working more,’ notes economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, PhD, founder of the Center for Talent Innovation in New York City. ‘In addition, there’s a huge disparity between what men think they’re doing and what they’re actually doing. More than half of working dads believe they’re splitting the load with their wives—but their wives say they’re doing less than a third of the work’” (Working Mother).

Our family friends, Joe and Susan, fall into this category.  Susan has an executive level job and works on average 60 hours a week.  Joe farms and is an electrician.  Joe works about 50 hours a week.  Joe will watch the children as long as he can take them to the farm with him.  However, he does no cleaning or cooking.  All of the household chores fall on Susan’s shoulders.

Joe has ample time to relax in the evenings while Susan is busy caring for the children.  Since the kids take priority, she frequently orders meals out and leaves the house a mess because she doesn’t have energy to do everything.  When the kids wake up in the middle of the night, Susan attends to them because Joe says she’s the mother and it’s her job.

My Question for You

How is the division of household labor treated in your house?  Do you or your spouse do more, or do you split chores 50/50?

Should a woman consider how likely a man is to pitch in before she marries him?  Is this a deal breaker as far as marriage is concerned?

Ray’s Comments – I believe that expecting someone to take the lead on household responsibilities strictly based on gender is something that doesn’t apply in the 21st century.  At this point, whether it’s caring for children, doing work around the house, or being the breadwinner, both men and women have the capacity to do anything.  As a guy, I think that guys that expect their wives to do more at home despite doing equal work (or more) outside of the house are lazy and entitled.  Saying that a wife should be the one to wake up at night for the kids just because she is the mother is appalling.  Not that I have an opinion, or anything like that… 🙂

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ evolvingPF February 26, 2014 at 4:47 pm

My husband and I don’t have kids so I’m sure things will get more complicated and difficult at that point, but we have worked out a division of labor that has worked for us for the past few years (we both work full-time). I do more of the day-to-day picking up – dishes, laundry – and my husband does more of the infrequent deep cleaning. (We both do some of each.) I probably spend more time on household chores, but he takes on the ones I find distasteful (trash) so I’m happy with the split.

I don’t think our chore division has much to do with our genders, just our personalities and preferences.


TTMK February 26, 2014 at 11:51 pm

That makes sense, doing what works for you based on personalities and preferences. You note that you’re happy with the split of work, so you guys must be doing something right.


David S. February 26, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I think it is up to the couple how things are done. I grew up in a home that my mom did most of the domestic workaround the home, though she was a stay at home mother. My dad would come home and work on the projects around the house (garden, mowing, remodeling (lots of that), cleaning the fallen trees, etc. That works for them. Now in my family I am the sole breadwinner and my wife is a stay at home mom, however I try to help around the house as much as I can, with cooking, cleaning, folding the laundry, dishes, etc. The main thing that works for us is to say thank you often and mean it, instead of trying to divide the work exactly 50/50.


TTMK February 26, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Agreed, it’s really up to a couple – in terms of figuring out an arrangement with housework that they can both live with. Being thankful is a nice way to be respectful toward a spouse.


Money Beagle February 27, 2014 at 12:52 pm

My wife stays at home with the kids, so she does a majority of the household work, though I do tend to do the after-dinner dishes a few times a week, and also throw my hand in cleaning the house every so often. I also fold sheets and stuff like that, so while I know it’s not 50-50, I also make sure it’s not a 100-0 ratio.


TTMK February 28, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Sounds fair!


Poor Student February 28, 2014 at 3:29 am

I’m not married yet but I’d like my partner and I to have fair share of house chores. When I still lived with my parents my mom usually does cooking and cleaning while my dad does the laundry and cleaning as well.


TTMK February 28, 2014 at 5:21 pm

That makes sense. As Melissa noted in her post, it isn’t the 1950’s anymore!


Kasia March 2, 2014 at 3:56 am

Hi, I’ve been reading for a while but never commented.
A couple is a partnership and it’s important to split the chores. While 50/50 may not always be easy to achieve somewhere close is a good aim regardless of who is the primary breadwinner.
My partner and I share the household chores, we both work full time with me being the higher income earner.
I think it’s important to split the chores from the get go because you can’t expect more from your partner after years of doing everything for them. I made it clear from the onset of our relationship that I would be no man’s maid regardless of their income. If I cook, he does the dishes and vice versa; he vacuums the house while I clean the bathrooms, etc. Now that I am six months pregnant he tries to do even more around the house in little ways which is nice.


TTMK March 2, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Kasia – thanks for commenting, it sounds like you have a fair arrangement there. I don’t blame you for not wanting to be a maid, and think it’s great that he’s doing even more around the house given that you’re 6 months pregnant. Also – congrats on the upcoming baby! All the best to you.


Aspiring Millionaire March 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm

I think the split doesn’t need to be 50/50 but more what each of you is comfortable with. I was raised in a house with dad working and mum at home. She did everything like cooking (including preserving fruit, making bread from scratch, jam etc.), sewing our clothes, gardening etc. Dad mowed the lawns, fixed the house and did big projects when she wanted. As the kids got older we did more chores.

Having my mum pass away when she was 37, with 5 kids at home my dad struggled a little. He did his best, but a lot of the chores fell to me as I was the one who was mum’s little shadow and did everything how she did. I was 15 and it made me wonder what it would be like if it was dad (we would have struggled financially) and also made me think when I marry I want my partner and I to know how to do everything, but each have the areas we focus on, but we have to know how to do it all.

I was married for 8yrs and he barely helped. Kids, cooking, cleaning, all my responsibility as well as usually working. It worked in my favour in the divorce, but wasn’t ideal.

My new partner has been a single parent too, so we both know how to do everything, but we both share similar views on who does what and it is working well.

(Sorry for the huge comment!)


TTMK March 10, 2014 at 10:05 am

Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your own story with this issue. I enjoy reading such comments, no need to apologize for a long comment!

It sounds like you learned some real lessons watching the dynamics unfold at home when growing up, as changes happened. It’s great for you that you now have a partner who shares similar views, that has to be better than one person doing it all.


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