As we approach 2020, I’d like you to think about your role as a man when it comes to your home life.
How much of the daily household activities do you take part in without your wife asking you to do them? This includes chores like washing the dishes, cooking, doing laundry, and going to the grocery store.
When it comes to parenting, how much time do you spend with your kids doing homework, taking or picking them up from school, sports practice, or social activities?
Take about 30 seconds to really think about this. Make a written list if you have to.
Now, compare it with what your wife does to support your family.
Whose list was bigger, hers or yours?
What do you feel like your role should be when it comes to household duties, compared with your wife or partner?
Do you feel like you could be doing more?
Though there has been a movement away from traditional household gender roles, many men still feel like they should be the breadwinners while the women in the home should do the majority of the household chores such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and taking care of the kids.
Why you should be doing more
According to the Pew Research Center, 56% of U.S. adults with and without children, think that sharing household chores is very important to a successful marriage. Not only does this attribute to a healthier sex life in marriages, but according to another report, couples who equally split household chores are overall happier and more satisfied with their marriage.
It all comes down to fairness. When men share equally in household chores, women tend to see this as a fair balance in the relationship. When men do more than their fair share and go above and beyond what’s expected of them, women tend to be even more satisfied with their relationship.
Male resistance has halted the progress of household gender equality
In the 1980s and ‘90s, progress was being made when it came to men putting forth more effort in household duties. However, that progress began to taper off.
A New York Times opinion piece by clinical psychologist and author Darcy Lockman talks about the idea of male resistance when it comes to husbands and fathers pitching in more around the house, and that this resistance wasn’t just acted out by a certain group of men, but by most men, regardless of their social leanings.
She partially attributes this lack of parity to the way men and women generally experience unfairness. Men, she writes, typically feel fear and self-reproach when they know they are getting away with something, whereas women generally feel angry and resentful toward their husbands for taking advantage of them. For the most part, she notes, men are willing to accept feeling this way to avoid more household responsibilities. She goes on to explain that when the situation is reversed, men are a lot less tolerant in accepting this kind of behavior than women.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Obviously, this isn’t the case for all men and there are plenty of men who in fact, do just as much, if not more than their wives, in contributing to their households.
But, we still have a long way to go.
Household gender roles are changing, just not fast enough
For those of us who perhaps don’t do enough around the house to help our wives, what can we do to change our behavior?
- The first step is to admit is to acknowledge the problem.
- Then, we need to have an honest conversation about it with our loved ones.
- Together with your spouse, create a plan with clear expectations.
An Action Plan
- Take action and make it fun. If applicable, include your kids. Play music while cleaning, reward yourself and everyone else who helps with a fun evening out or a movie night.
- Keep open communication with your loved ones regarding everyone’s roles in the household and what’s expected from them.
These are the consequences if we don’t change
The problem with stereotyping household gender roles runs deeper than just household chores. It can lead to strong resentment and unhappiness in relationships, depression in women, trust issues, gender insecurities and lack of self-worth, and in extreme cases, even verbal and physical abuse.
If we choose not to change our traditional ways, we run the risk of passing down these learned behaviors to our children, continually perpetuating these gender stereotypes to the next generation.
It will also affect their self-worth in different ways. For boys, these unhealthy traditional gender stereotypes cause an increased risk in substance abuse, suicide and a shorter life expectancy than women. Girls run a greater risk for teen pregnancy, child marriage, exposure to violence, and sexually-transmitted infections.
If we continue to set the example of an imbalanced relationship with our spouses, we also increase the chances of our children developing their own dysfunctional relationships as they get older.
What can you do now?
Changing learned behaviors can be a difficult task. Sometimes, you might not be able to do it on your own. Seeking help from a professional therapist can help you recognize your behaviors and provide you with the tools to re-establish a healthy, happy relationship with your spouse.