Are Chore Wars Just a War to Women?

Over the last two weeks there has been a flurry of articles and blog posts about the so called “chore wars”.  It all started with Time Magazine.  I found all the information about how hard it is to divide up the chores fairly.  While on vacation, my mom, sister-in-law and I were talking about how we’ve split up household tasks, mostly how my parents did it with two kids, jobs and endless activities and social lives happening.

How did my mom feel some relief from all she had going on while being a stay at home mom with young kids?  She asked my dad for help!  It seems so simple.  I’m not saying other women aren’t doing this, well, not all of them. This should be a conversation had when two people join their lives.  And certainly before they have children, because children change everything.  People without children have no idea how many more chores come into the game with a child.  I have some good guesses, but I know it’s no where near the reality.

When my mom went back to work, my brother and I were enrolled to help more at home.  I was paid well to vacuum and dust – two chores I have always loved – and no I can’t explain why.  We learned to do our own laundry.  We slowly learned to pick up after ourselves, expect for shoes – I still leave them all over my own house.  Growing up in a fairly egalitarian house, we were expected to pitch in.

There will always be chores to do that no one in the household wants to do.  I will clean a toilet every day if it gets me out of cleaning the shower.  I don’t know what it is about that one part of the bathroom, but I hate doing it!  I wondered what other people absolutely hate to do.

After reading the reactions to the Time story (namely Huffington Post and MomsRising) I started to wonder, how do people deal with these issues?  How are chores divided, and who does what?  Do they really follow gender roles?  They certainly don’t in my home.  We take turns with the cat litter, taking out the trash and recycling, we both do our part to tidy up and put things back where they belong. I’m not a cook – and I don’t tend it enjoy.  I actually find cooking more stressful than anything.  But we split the cooking.  Here’s why: whoever cooks does NOT do dishes.  And while I don’t tend to enjoy cooking, I do not enjoy doing dishes.

To find the answers to my questions I created a survey, for you, the readers to share how it works in your home.  Here’s what I found:

The basics to keep in mind:

95% of respondents were female

Thirty percent of respondents were between the ages of 26-30, 20% between the ages of 36-40; the remaining respondents’ ages varied greatly from the 18-25 block to the 56+ block.

The results:

55% said the division of chores does not follow traditional gender roles (I find this to be an awesome stat!)

50% said the chores are alternated in the home – alternating who does some of the chores

There will always be bickering and small fights about those chores that no one wants to do.  What are those chores? Cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, and general picking up and straightening up.

My survey was a rough example of chores.  As one respondent rightly pointed out, the variety of chores only increases when pets are added in, and much more with each child you have.  This respondent also pointed out the great resentment women still feel from having to take on all these additional chores.

No matter what the responses said about splitting the chores, and having a system to get everything done, almost all of the comments mentioned annoyance of the system created, resentment, or a wish that their partner would do a little more.  Has the number of chores increased over the past generation so the change doesn’t feel real, or are we just hitting the tip of ice berg in terms of the help we receive?

I am only left with more questions from the survey results. To solve this issue women need to do it the work to change things.  So, how do you suggest we do this?

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  • Hey Maggie – great post! Sorry, I didn’t have time to read it earlier.

    I’m glad you found that your friends have a pretty progressive view of chores and that you and the SO divide things fairly. It does seem like communication might be the key to lessening some of the gender divide here. While I have never lived with a partner, I have had a lot of roommates, and I’ve noticed a few things:

    a) The most observant person often does the most chores, because she/he notices what needs doing.
    b) The same is true for people who are better organized – they often do more chores because they are better at time management, and thus will make time for chores, or may just remember that they need to do them better.
    c) However, other roommates are willing to pitch in when the issue is brought to their attention. They may need a special system (a chore wheel, a chart to mark when done, reminder emails) to facilitate this. This may be true even if the roommates have been considered adults for a while…

    Thus, communicating chore disparities might well address the problem and encourage the “slackers” to contribute more. No one in a health relationship wants to be told they aren’t doing their fair share. As you say, asking is definitely important.

    Nonetheless, some assumptions may still be made about who does what. These can be hard to overcome. One of my favorite advice columnists, Captain Awkward, advises that roommates who can’t solve chore discrepancies hire a cleaning person to even things out. Although this isn’t always possible, this may alleviate some families’ problems.