Why Do Men Do Less Housework Than Women?

Just over a year ago, I moved in with my partner. While this move represented a significant change in lifestyle, I was most surprised by my sudden interest in keeping a clean home.  Like many men my age, I had lived with roommates for several years, and during that time, it is safe to say that I did not always pull my weight when it comes to housework. In fairness, neither did the others. Upon moving in with my partner, however, I began to take greater pride in the state of our home, almost as if its tidiness reflected on our relative success as a couple. 

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Even with this newfound drive, I soon noticed that my cleanliness standards were not the same as my partner’s. Where I saw a clean bathroom, she saw a good start. 

Women do more cleaning

Even though more women are at work than ever before, they still spend significantly more time on average doing housework than men. 

During the recent lockdown, with both men and women stuck at home, women still took on the bulk of the extra cleaning. It’s time to take a look at ourselves and ask why that might be.

Women are more detailed about cleaning

One prevailing idea is that some men do not “see” mess in the same way that women do. Writing for the Guardian, Oliver Burkeman identifies that while he pulls his weight around the house, he does so through tidying and will often neglect certain cleaning tasks, simply not noticing that the dirt is there.

He also proposes that perhaps men care less about certain chores than women. While men may be happy to take the bins out or run the vacuum cleaner across the carpet, they might skip over seemingly minor details and consider their work to be good enough. 

Gender expectations

It is telling that it is still so widely expected that the woman in a heterosexual relationship will be the one to manage the home and dole out chores. While a great deal of progress is being made to counter generations of inequality, we still fall back on stereotypical gender roles when it comes to housework. 

Perhaps we should blame years of advertising targeted at women? Or maybe we learned our respective roles from watching our parents? A more uncomfortable truth might be that men know that we are getting a sweet deal right now and are therefore less motivated to talk openly with our partners about a fairer division of labor. 

Men earning less, do less cleaning

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Bizarrely, there is also an apparent correlation between a man earning less than his partner and doing less housework. For the Atlantic, Olga Khazan observes that men who earn less than their partners can feel emasculated and resort to cooking as their chore of choice, neglecting any cleaning or other household tasks.

As somebody who works from home, earns significantly less than my partner and does all the cooking, this article is made for uncomfortable reading. How many of the more unpleasant and tedious chores am I leaving for my partner, excusing myself because I handle the cooking? Is cooking even a task for me, given that I enjoy it?

“Chore play”

Last year, there was a degree of controversy when the term “chore play” surfaced to describe how some women were encouraging their male partners to do more around the house. The contention was that this approach elevates men to do housework as an exception rather than an expected norm. 

Need for communication and compromise

As with many problems that can arise in a relationship, the best solution might be clear communication and compromise. Identifying which chores need to be performed and what exactly qualifies as “good enough” is a good start to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page.     

Conclusion

There is a great deal of discourse in the modern world concerning the notion of masculinity, what is expected of men, and how we can move towards an equitable future. Each couple lives in their own given circumstances with different responsibilities, workloads, and aspirations, and it is not my intention to prescribe a perfect solution for every situation. 

However, we can take the time to consider how much we are currently doing around the house and whether we could be doing more. It’s never too late to make a change. 

Author Bio: David Reeson is a University of Leeds graduate currently working as a digital marketing intern at TidyChoice. He has years of experience working in digital marketing sales. He has published several articles on marketing, business, and lifestyle topics.