A gendered housework study out of the University of Bath is revealing some interesting data on just who bears the brunt of housework, and honestly, no mom will be surprised. Dr. Joanna Syrda’s work, “Gendered Housework: Spousal Relative Income, Parenthood, and Traditional Gender Identity Norms,” studies the relationship between married parents where the mother earns the most, and how this “non-traditional” set-up impacts the housework gap.

In the past, men have traditionally been the breadwinners of the home, leaving much of the child-rearing and housework to mothers who have remained at home. However, more women are participating in the workforce and even out-earning their partners in this day and age.

Given that the main reason women took care of the home in the past was due to a lack of outside employment, it stands to reason that if they became the main family earners, that husbands/fathers would step in to fill the gap when it comes to housework. Spoiler alert: That’s not the case.

To clarify, Dr. Syrda’s study defines housework as tasks like cooking, cleaning, and other household actions that aren’t necessarily related to childcare. Her paper reviews a U.S. study that monitored 6,000 heterosexual couples and the impact of having children on the relationship between housework and spousal relative income.

In a press release, Dr. Syrda shares “I found that the gender housework gap actually gets bigger for mothers who earned more than their spouses – the more they earned over their partner, the more housework they did.” She believes that’s because as a society, we are still entrenched in norms about what moms and dads “should” be doing. “When men earn less than women, couples neutralize this by increasing traditionality through housework – in other words, wives do more and husbands do less as they try to offset this ‘abnormal’ situation by leaning into other conventional gender norms.”

mothers have more housework
Josue Michel/Unsplash

So why does all this matter? Because studies have shown that couples with kids fight the most about housework and its related responsibilities. Obviously, the traditional view families took is quickly becoming outdated as high-earning moms become more common.

According to Syrda, it’s important to address and equalize household responsibilities early on. “How couples divide the increased domestic workload after becoming parents will be an important determinant of earnings inequalities between women and men over the course of their lives – a pattern once settled upon is often difficult to renegotiate. And these norms may be passed to their children.”

You can read the entire study by Dr. Syrda here.

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