Women do more housework than men because they are guilty control freaks

Much has been made about the fact that married women do more housework and childcare than their husbands, even when they work outside the home. The most recent stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that on an average day 82 percent of women spent time on housework, compared with just 65 percent of men — and women spend longer per day doing these chores. And then there is the Stanford study that found partnered female scientists did 54 percent of household chores in their home while their male counterparts did just 28 percent.

The party line feminist response to these oft-cited statistics is always the same: Men need to step it up at home so we can close the pay gap and free women to be true equal partners in all spheres.


Or, maybe the problem isn’t that men are lazy or chauvinistic. Maybe women need to rethink how much time we devote to housework and abolish the working-mom guilt that drives us to Swiffer our floors every evening.

The fact is, we still accept — often subconsciously — that good wives and women take good care of their homes, whether they work or not. I suspect that huge numbers of professional mothers develop Swiffer elbow because they unconsciously worry that if their kitchen floor is gross their kids (or neighbors) will think they’re a crap mom and that they, in turn, will feel like a crap mom. In other words: They Swiffer because they feel guilty for being professionally successful and cannot reconcile that with the fact that they must be successful at home, too.

However, something else is at play as we sort out the finer points of closing the pay gap at work and the work gap at home. Women, historically, were granted scant opportunity to relax. Women’s work has traditionally been a breakless endeavor, as anyone with a newborn can tell you. Cooking and cleaning, historically, did not pause when the sun set, as men’s work of farming and business-running typically did.

Today, this plays out in the office: A recent survey by Captivate Network found that at work men are 25 percent more likely to take breaks throughout the workday for personal activities, 7 percent more likely go for a walk, 5 percent more likely to leave the office for lunch and a whopping 35 percent more likely to take breaks “just to relax.” Maybe these young women are subject to sexism which dictates they work harder than their male colleagues in order to get ahead. But maybe they also have few models for how to balance their own well-being with productivity.

This non-stop work standard then plays out at home, as all the studies about unequal time spent on housework and parenting illustrate. But as we abolish the distinction between gender-specific tasks in all spheres, women need new attitudes about what their work day can look like — both in the office and at home.

This is where outsourcing household tasks becomes a critical force in gender equality. Think about it: You are a professional woman building a career or business so you can maximize your God-given skills (plus a few more you learned along the way). We are on this trail-blazing path so you and I can do better than our foremothers who were resigned to back-breaking, mind-numbing housework because they had no other options.

So, hire a housekeeper and be at peace with it. Pick up take-out sometimes, and pay someone else to do your laundry. Or relax your cleanliness standards. You will not be reported to your local Department of Child Protective Services if you restrict the Swiffering to once weekly.

Most importantly, let go of the part of your identity that equates the orderliness of your home with your self-worth. Because now we have a glorious plethora of other ways to express our identities in career, creativity and community activities that were once only men’s territory. Embrace all the readily-available measures that now allow us to cut the chore shackles from our ankles and chill the eff out. Take a break. Stop expecting so much of yourself at home and stop quarreling with your husband to do the same. And relish in this moment in history when you have the option to be so much more than your hardwood floors.

This post originally appeared on DailyWorth, where I am a contributor. 

Emma Johnson is a veteran money writer, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, REAL SIMPLE, Parenting, USA Today and others.

The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin, 2017), was a #1 bestseller and was featured in hundreds of media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, Oprah.com and the New York Post, which named it to its ‘Must Read” list.

Her popular blog Wealthysinglemommy.com, and podcast Like a Mother, explore issues facing professional single moms: business and career, money, sex, relationships and parenting. Emma regularly comments on these topics for outlets such as CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, The Doctors, and many more. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” one of “20 Personal Finance Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by AOL DailyFinance, “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and “Most Eligible New Yorkers” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker on gender equality, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality.

Emma grew up in Sycamore, Ill., and lives in New York City with her children.

5 thoughts on “Women do more housework than men because they are guilty control freaks

  1. I can’t speak for all households, women or men but only to my lifes experience. My wife has recently re-entered the workforce for economic reasons. yet still tries to maintain the extremely high standard of orderlyness and cleanlyness. I have all but been banned from helping with the laundry, cooking, mopping household type work because there is no way i could do as good of a job as she could. Although it is true in most cases I am not as good at doing domestic work, I believe that life doesnt have to be lived perfectly organized, dust and germ free either. Regardless of who does what within the household and externally, the overall big picture workload should be reasonable shared based on the skills and abilities of the partners involved. I have no problems sewing up the kids Halloween costumes or cooking the Thanksgiving dinner (and do) all I ask is to give me credit for the next time the water heater needs replacing or the weekend I spent replacing the roof on the house.

    1. I see that too — that women arbitrarily establish the cleaning/housework standards and everyone is expected to share it equally. Just because you chose to clean all the time does not mean that others are lazy or slobs or entitled because they’re not jamming on it.

  2. ” I have all but been banned from helping with the laundry, cooking, mopping household type work because there is no way i could do as good of a job as she could.” :) Ha! Keep standin’ for recognition of your contributions Mike! I bet she has banned you herself for not “being good enough”, but then gets pissed at you because of her own inability to be satisified by your contributions. “No good deed goes unpunished”, I always say, and this is just another example.

    Emma had a blog on here a few months ago – I believe referencing some other article – where so many moms -even married ones – feel “single” because their husbands/exes never pitched in to help enough with housework. What many women fail to realize is that when they set ridiculously high standards for home cleanliness, especially in a home full of kiddos, not even the greatest helpmate can meet those standards. Then, men get tired of the nagging, and determine “do it yourself since I can’t seem to do it well enough.” Then, she gets mad that hubby/ex-hubby did/didn’t help out. It’s a vicious circle women create for themselves.

    My mom got both her sons heavily involved in housework and trained us in all the fine art of domesticity. I can cook, clean, and do laundry better than most women I know, and had I ever gotten married I would have gladly pitched in. My mom, however, is also one of those endlessly nagging wives and mothers whom are never satisfied with the result of their spouse or sons’ effort, no matter how helpful they aim to be. Seeing such as a young man, I figured if I’d ever gotten married that a wife would have given me the same grief, creating an endless cloud of dissatisfaction about all my efforts in the house, and the resulting unhappiness simply creates additional tension for mom, kids, and husband, if she hasn’t divorced him yet.

    A lot of women nag endlessly, instead of looking at their own expectations and thinking “If I want it done a certain way, within a certain time frame, and this frequently, I need to do it myself.” And then be happy with what their own family can do that mommy can manage to be satisfied with.

  3. I’ve never been interested in housework at all, Im lucky to have found a gay male flatmate who does all the cleaning and doesn’t seem to mind at all. I don’t know if its is hypocritical to say that I think gay men are more likely to do so much of this work than straight men are even though I’m a female and just as useless at putting in any effort towards housework as straight men. *shrug* I recommend getting a gay flatmate if you’re not into cleaning, just in case you hit the jack pot too.

  4. I sincerely believe also that owning less stuff, decluttering your home can speed up your cleaning time. My partner tends to keep everything around just in case, which makes our home extremely hard to clean. After emptying out most of our things, the home looks much bigger and cleaning time has reduced so drastically that we both don’t mind doing it. Granted I am not a domestic goddess and my cleaning skills are below average, but the less stuff I have to get dirty, the less skills we are required to have to keep the place clean and tidy.

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