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The ongoing changes in marital roles have been instigated by economic growth and the shift from manufacturing to service industries. This increases the demand for labor in female occupations. While women’s participation in the labor force has been increasing rapidly, the household division of labor is yet to have a matching change. Recent research strongly suggests that the macro level factors, particularly those that are related to gender inequalities, play a significant role in the distribution of housework between spouses (Cuvillier 22).
People are automatically stuck in rigid gender roles since their childhood. However, these attitudes tend to change as people grow up and mature. Men and women with traditional attitudes are less likely to share household chores. Nevertheless, those who are open-minded perceive the sharing of chores to be normal. In this regard, those spouses with progressive attitudes are more likely to share housework equally. Today’s men contribute, at best, just a third of primary housework tasks. Men’s contribution to housework in greater gender-egalitarian countries is considerably larger than elsewhere (Blau & Kahn 49).
While the division of labor in the paid workforce has been given much thought, the division of labor at home has received less scrutiny. With the growing participation, of women in the labor force, couples are required to manage competing demands for time from the family, and the work domains. A functional division of family work is associated with less depression, less marital conflicts and higher relationship satisfaction.
Women have traditionally been responsible for housework. In addition, their biological nature orients them towards household engagements. Currently, a significant number of them find the demand to work outside the home setting to be irresistible and, as such, there are many who are employed on full time basis. These women are faced with the challenge of balancing between work and family engagements. As wives’ involvement in the workforce increases, their responsibility for housework declines. For example, 89 percent of women who were not employed are solely responsible for meal preparation compared with 72 percent of those who are employed on full time basis. Social roles and traditions may affect women’s choices and preferences about careers and education, finally, shaping their chances (Blumstein & Schwartz 55).
Over the last few years, there has been a positive change in husband’s housework allocation. Though men might increasingly being engaged in various household chores, gender inequality still exists in housework. Even when a woman is employed, she still bears primary responsibility for the household chores and childcare even in the most egalitarian countries. Men’s participation in the labor force decreases their participation in household chores. Mainstream economic models of households determine who does the formal work and who does the house chores. These models establish that the wage differential and the spouse’s productivities are the determinants of a spouse’s participation in household chores (Bergmann 11).
The way that couples allocate housework is associated with their satisfaction with various aspects of their lives. These aspects include time for other interests, balance between work and family, and the allocation of household tasks. Studies show that working couples are most likely to share responsibilities than when only one partner is employed. Sharing of house chores is higher among younger, educated spouses with fewer children than among older couples. Household chores vary from house cleaning, shopping, cooking, meal clean-up, laundry, taking care of children, repairing broken devices to house maintenance, and, financial obligations (Becker 60).
While housework tend to be done by women mostly, yard work, maintenance, and repairs are likely to be the responsibility of men. Men must also make an effort in chores considered as feminine. The feminine household tasks are usually the most physically demanding. They include but are not limited to laundry, cooking ironing and cleaning. The nature of the responsibility involved in these activities differs from housework.
Family obligations have an impact on a couple’s division of household chores. For instance, the number of children in the household has some bearing on the allocation of family responsibilities. Mothers with fewer children are more likely have greater household responsibilities than a mother with four children does. In addition, families with pre-school children and school-going children significantly increase the household responsibilities. As a result, crucial couples share the chores to reduce the burden. This is particularly beneficial for full-time employed couples. In addition, increase in the number of children is associated with a reduction in males’ participation, in household chores. Limitations by health problems may also force the healthy spouse to perform household duties.
The educational accomplishment of the spouses is also related with the allotment of house chores (Desaulniers 34). The more educated the couple is, the more likely that they will share household responsibilities than those uneducated. Men have changed attitudes about what is expected of them, and there are contributing to the care of their home. Currently, it is also acceptable for men to show competencies in cooking and cleaning. When couples share family responsibilities such as household chores, they provide the couple with common experiences and interests. They can initiate conversations and mutual understanding around this good ground.
Division of labor reduces the levels of depression and emotional stress caused by being overwhelmed by household chores. These chores are associated with low status and are considered as invisible work for which one receives few rewards. When shared, the responsibilities become less psychologically distressing. Sharing household responsibilities improves the well-being of the whole family since there is no partner over-burdened with the responsibilities at home. In addition, it improves or maintains the standard of living of the family. This is because each partner has a chance to participate in income generating activities as their partners help them in household chores (Desaulniers 56).
Blau et al notes that couples that share family responsibilities are an excellent example to their children. By sharing the responsibilities, they show that it is acceptable to help each other and they are a good example of what being responsible entails. When such children grow up, they probably will act the same way of helping their partners in household chores. Sharing the duties of childcare is essential for any couple. Each partner gets a chance to bond with the child. When one partner is working on other chores, the other partner may use the chance to build enduring bonds with their children. This way, both parents become part of their children’s lives, resulting to the creation of a strong family unit (60).
Sharing household duties is also a sign of care and love between two partners. It shows that the other person cares about their partner’s well-being and does not want to his or her spouse overworking. Lending a hand, will always be appreciated no matter how small the help was. Spouses show how much they love and support each other by helping out in household duties. They will also be a good example to other spouses who burden one partner with household chores.
Bell and Weinberg explain that despite the numerous benefits associated with sharing household chores equitably, most spouses fail to reach an agreement on the division of household labor and resources. They fail to agree on how much work to assign to each partner. Such spouses resort to non-cooperative behavior, which may affect their relationship if not addressed immediately. Couples must discuss and reach a consensual decision together to ensure equal responsibilities in household chores. Partners should maximize their household production functions and must be fair when allocating duties. One spouse making decisions is the cause of household chores related conflicts (56).
On the other hand, Dunne believes that sharing household responsibilities may affect the man’s psychological well-being. This occurs especially if the man was brought up in a setting in which household chores were reserved for women. It may also lead to loss of identity among the couple, especially if they are traditionalist. A traditional husband may feel less of a man when he performs chores such as cooking for his family. Such men are brought up to believe that cooking is feeble, and no ‘real man’ should be seen in the kitchen. They may perform such chores but not with a happy heart and may end up being distressed throughout their marriage life. Such distress is characterized with measures of anxiety, unhappiness, and low pride (88).
Becker urges that helping out with household chores and childcare may make husbands feel a loss of power in the family. This feeling threatens their confidence since they have to assist in household chores and childcare, duties considered by many as weak. Sharing household responsibilities may also cause partner exploitation. A partner may take advantage of the other and misuse their support (34). Consequently, this may create the feeling of being misused. Men participation in household chores is extremely prohibited in some cultures, as well as some religions. For instance, the traditional African culture forbids men to perform almost all household tasks. In strict cultures, it is forbidden for a man to step in the kitchen let alone do some cooking. Such taboos and customs have made it difficult for men to participate in household duties. This becomes complicated when the woman is sick and cannot perform the household duties expected of her. In such situations, the husband may be willing to help out his family but is tied by the bondage of traditions and taboos (Desaulniers 70).
In conclusion, the distribution of housework should not affect the way that couples feel about the balance between their jobs and family. Women continue having the responsibility for domestic chores. Regardless of how housework is divided wives and husbands should be satisfied with the balance. Many spouses prefer fairness over the division of household duties. Division of household labor should result to a happy marriage. Burdening one partner with all household chores can make that partner disengage emotionally in their marriage. It is, therefore, necessary for couples to be equally responsible for domestic work.