Women are doing less housework - but it's not men we have to thank

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Congratulations, ladies. We've come a long way since 1965, and we're doing half the amount of housework we used to. But don't go patting your male partner on the back for easing your workload.

A recent study by the Council on Contemporary Families found that men have increased the amount of housework they do – they're now doing an average of only four hours a week, up from two hours in 1965. And those four hours are the same as what they were putting in back in 1995.

Have we made no progress in the past 23 years? Come on, guys, push the vacuum around once in a while!

That paltry effort is compared with the 14.2 hours of work women are doing around the house each week. Sure, that's down from 30.4 hours in 1965, but we're still clearly doing the heavy lifting here. And let's not even get started on who carries the mental load of running the household.

The only reason women's workloads have shrunk at home is because we've enjoyed some major leaps in technology. We have better and faster dishwashers, irons, washing machines and dryers, and, sometimes, those cool robot vacuums. Lucky us!

Of course, if we're REALLY lucky, we also have a partner who understands that running a household is a team effort that has zero to do with gender.

Sydney mum of two Beth McFarlane says her partner contributes around the house, but not enough.

"He tries, I can see that," she says. "But I feel like I have to ask for things to be done. He doesn't look around and see there's a mountain of dishes in the sink and then make the mental connection to think that perhaps he should do them. It's like his brain isn't wired that way."

Jodie Galbraith from Brisbane says she's one of the lucky ones.

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"My husband probably does more around the house than I do," says the full-time lawyer and mum of three. "I'm a terrible cook and I don't care about mess so much, but James keeps things running smoothly most of the time and honestly I hardly think about it. I know how fortunate I am!"

Relationship Counsellor Dan Auerbach says frustration around the division of household chores is often not about the chores at all.

"Before setting out to address issues about chores, it can be good to think about whether you feel you and your partner are a team and whether your partner offers you emotional support. Often couples displace their unmet emotional needs into a focus on fairness," Auerbach from Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney  said.

"Wanting to share the chores is completely fair and a real issue. Yet we also commonly see couples disagreeing about the fairness of what each provides as a proxy for deeper dissatisfaction.

"Partners who generally feel unrecognised, unappreciated or not responded to can often become critical of their partner's efforts around the home. If you cannot reach your partner emotionally or don't feel connected this will need to be addressed first."

Auerbach says it's important not to assume the issue is obvious to everyone.

"When we are hurt or disappointed, one natural response is to shut down to protect ourselves," he says. "Inside, we hope that our partner will recognise our distress and that they will respond. We may even set secret tests for them by leaving out some dirty dishes!

"Telling your partner how you feel and what you need, as well as listening to them and understanding their feelings and needs is an essential part of any thriving long-term relationship. Talk often, talk about your deeper feelings, be vulnerable and make regular room for this. If you repeatedly get stuck in the same arguments get some professional help."

And to any man whose partner is asking for help, Auerbach says it's important to pay attention.

"Requests to share in the housework are usually a proxy for deeper feelings of being unappreciated, unloved, or uncared for," says Dan.

"These are serious issues and deserve your attention. Listen up! Your partner is asking you to show you care."