If men and women work the same number of hours, what is so unfair?

The Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting article, Why Mom’s Time is Different Than Dad’s Time, by Jennifer Senior, the author of a soon-to-be published book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.” Her article references a study that  indicates that men and women — husbands and wives — work roughly the same number of hours per week. Men work more paid hours and women work more unpaid hours, but at the end of the week, everyone has punched the clock for a similar amount of time.

Yet, says Senior, women are still cranky about this because they believe men don’t do their share of the household tasks. She makes no mention of the idea that women should pick up more paid hours to compensate, or to allow their husbands to work less. Nope, it’s just about hubby working more so that the wife feels better.

to keep reading, click here: If men and women work the same number of hours, what is so unfair?

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15 thoughts on “If men and women work the same number of hours, what is so unfair?

  1. My husband is a very hands on father when it comes to day to day stuff but the fact is I do the bulk of kid work and he doesn’t really do any of the extra stuff. Anything crafty? That’s me. Making sure she has all the extra things for school like taking in eggshells for their worm farm? Me. Procuring clothes and switching them out season/size wise? That’s me. Well baby visits? Me. Clipping fingernails? Me. Researching anything child related? Me. Christmas gifts? Me. Parties? Me. Even when I was working full time.

    I don’t mind doing these things for the most part but it’s overwhelming. It’s actually one of the reasons I cut back on my hours at work. I felt that if he didn’t step up at home, I needed to step back at work. I work more now because there is no rearranging of the day like you do at the office. If your kid has to eat, no rescheduling that. If you need a little longer to finish a project (like taxes), chances are you can’t call your partner to pick up your kid at school. It is ALL on you, you are a department of one.

    While it’s not my exact situation, I see a lot of my SAHM friends’ husbands taking the stance that the mom should do ALL the childcare, nights and weekends. That is grossly unfair and effectively imprisoning moms in her “workplace” 24/7. It should be that she does 100% during working hours and when mom/dad are home it is 50/50. He has put in his work day and so has she, the night time and weekend parenting should be split somewhat equally. However many men do not see it that way, he does work and he deserves time off but that feeling does not extend to their partners. They “sit around all day” and “do nothing”.

    While I don’t disagree some women put more stress on them than necessary (blame Pinterest), I think this statement is kind of unfair: ” But I think some of this time pressure is overdone. Getting a toddler dressed is a pain in the neck, but no toddler ever died from going to pre-school in pajama pants or mismatched socks.” Being a mom is my job (even when I was working full time) and I take pride in it. Even if it stressed me out doing it, I wouldn’t turn in a report at work with mismatched fonts, sizes on different kinds of paper, I’m not going to do the same thing to my kid. I don’t believe in giving my kid the short end of the stick in favor of a company that in the end, will have no loyalty to me and will lay me off without a second thought.

    1. If the SAHM moms are working 24/7 and their husbands are not, then yes, it’s grossly unfair. But, this study showed this is not the case. Men and women are working the same number of hours. It’s just that women still feel picked on.

  2. Also, there is the issue that what business hours the women work they are getting paid far less than the men for usually. In addition, if most of those hours are at home and not in a business, the men often decide how to spend what money there is. So not only do they do the same hours, they get less or no pay, and often little say in what happens with the money. They also look forward to less retirement money (if there is any,) and if something happens and they must go back to business work, they still end up doing all the same hours at home.

    Until society as a whole considers those hours at home actually socially equal to the work in a business, of course they’re going to be upset about it.

  3. Honestly this seems like a bit of a straw man argument to me. A quote from the original article “Part of the problem is that averages treat all data as if they’re the same and therefore combinable, which often results in a kind of absurdity.” So even when a couple decides something mutually-mom staying home because dad works 12 hour days-both halves of the couple can get overwhelmed and resentful. Mom because running around after kids is hard, dad because he’s working for pay 12 hours a day which is hard in a different way, and both can feel unappreciated. And what mom who made the decision to breastfeed hasn’t felt resentful as the person who helped make that baby is sleeping like a baby through another feeding? Or even when a husband does contribute at home, sometimes mom is still managing the overall juggle (“household CEO”, very lightly speaking.)

    Now moms can definitely take on more than necessary, and other interviews with this same author would suggest just that.

  4. No kid has died from going to school in pajamas, true. But they DO need to be dressed in something that is weather appropriate. AND you kid really needs to have eaten something and have whatever supplies going along, so there is a fair amount of non-negotiable stuff going on in that type of scenario. In addition, most teachers might not say anything to the parents – but they WILL absolutely notice – and draw all sorts of conclusions, most of which are to the distinct disadvantage of the child. And it could even invite a visit to the local Child Protective Services (whatever they are called in a particular jurisdiction.) By the same token, it’s easy enough to tell people that they shouldn’t let it get to them, but the dirty looks and comments that come your way when people don’t approve of your child’s public behavior are stressful.

    The point is that childcare is qualitatively different than other types of housework, and failure to recognize this is a real issue. When you throw in the issue of sleep deprivation, which is ignored in almost every study that purports to look at gender balance in “home-making”, it really affects how people are affected.

    In general, the idea that you can judge how equitably work is being distributed – in ANY situation, based purely on number of hours put in, makes no sense.

  5. My first thought on reading the article was, “Why don’t you ask your husband to put the kids to sleep?” More specifically, it sounds like the problem isn’t the workload, but lack of communication about desired tasks and need for room… surprising for someone who ‘has the finger on the pulse of the house’.

    There may be some level of responsibility on the man to recognize when the wife is overwhelmed (I have a three month and three year old…), but I’m generally looking for something to do, and the things that come up to my mind most often are things like dishes, picking up, etc..

  6. I haven’t read the study, but I think that the biggest problem that women deal with is the lack of respect and acknowledgement about unpaid work. I work full time and am expected to do most of the childcare and housework because I am the woman. I am constantly required to multitask and try and get mulitple things done at once with a clingy toddler and child WHILE MY HUSBAND IS HOME. My husband sees things that aren’t done and insists that each task only takes “a couple of seconds”, but he fails to see the bigger picture of how much work each “couple of seconds” amounts to in reality. Yes, it only takes a couple of seconds to wipe down the sink, but he fails to see the other “quick seconds” that I spent with the mountain of tasks that I have to perform. Each small task that a caregiver performs is in itself very easy and not hard. However, it becomes difficult when you have a bunch of “easy tasks” that need to be done at the same time. For instance, the baby needs to be fed at the same time the toddler needs to be dressed. Somehow I have to get this done at the same time while he is standing around? At least at work you have coworkers who assist you in tasks. This is why I complain.

  7. I think the situation is problematic if 1) the primary caretaker of kids/household can’t ask for help and expect to get immediate and enthusiastic cooperation and 2) the non-primary doesn’t at least take some initiative in household tasks and follow through to deliver on commitments as promised. Women stop asking for help if they get push back – either in the form of resentment or forgetfulness.

    For example, my husband “does the laundry” but only if I remind him that it needs to be done, remind him to change the loads from washer to dryer, remind him to fold it and remind him to put it away. He doesn’t do the task if he’s tired or doesn’t feel like it or does half of it and leaves laundry everywhere which leaves me and my kids running out of clothes at times and frequently inhabiting a living room with half of our clothes piled on the sofa. Years of begging have not resulted in his being able to complete this task on a schedule or to finish it completely in a reasonable amount of time (wash everything once a week is my standard of “reasonable”). From his perspective, I am a whining nagging pain in the ass. I am also someone who has no pants to wear to work tomorrow which I have to say, makes me a little cranky so he’s not far from wrong in his assessment. If he followed through on work projects the way he follows through on laundry, he would have been fired long ago.

    Immediate and enthusiastic help is a must if you want to have a happy partner. Follow through on chores that you “own” with some sort of sense of personal responsibility and on an agreed upon time schedule is also required if you want your primary caretakers (who are mostly women) to feel supported and relaxed. I would also add – don’t ever ask your primary caretaker partner to do an additional task if they are already engaged in a time sensitive people-care task. Get your own rear off the couch and take care of it. Even if you are tired and don’t feel like it – chances are she is tired and doesn’t feel like it either.

  8. All of your arguments rest on the idea that it is ONLY household work that is stressful. And that’s where the big fallacy comes in. Paid work is also stressful. And since men work more paid hours than women work, we can pretty logically conclude that they have more paid stress filled ours than women do.

    According to this study, it pretty much balances out. Of course, it doesn’t balance in every marriage, but overall, it does.

    1. I would imagine that many of the people who read and comment on your blog are employed and have some idea of what paid work entails. And talking about averages is a fallacy because people do not experience their lives as an average.

      My unofficial survey a number of women who work the same number of hours for pay as their husbands read the original article and said “that’s my life!”

      The fact that many men contribute to the functioning of the household is a huge advance over 50 years ago. On an individual family level it will never feel entirely even but you have to negotiate what works for your family.

  9. One thing not yet mentioned is leisure time. If you look at the original BLS study, it indicates that husbands spend more time working, eating and on leisure time than wives do, while wives spend more time in every other category than husbands do. I wonder if the imbalance in leisure time is really what’s causing the feelings of unfairness.

    1. Yes! Exactly! I don’t speak for anyone else’s husband, but mine thinks that playing with the children and supervising them is my leisure time. He doesn’t understand that supervising the children is not the same as having time by myself. (Yet when he wants to watch the game or be on the computer he expects this time to be childfree)

  10. I’m flashing back to a study I read (wish I could remember where) that found that where both parents work full time, the woman worked double the hours of her partner. Wonder if anyone’s considered this matter recently? I know at home both my husband and I work full time, yet I seem to be expected to cook (95% of the time); clean (95% of the time) and so on. He feeds the dogs,cat and ducks. This takes me 10 minutes, max. I also mow the lawn. Not quite seeing the balance here…

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