May 11, 2023
Over the past four or so decades we have seen a huge increase in the number of women working in paying jobs outside the home. In fact, a recent Pew analysis shows that in nearly half of married hetero households, wives earn around as much as husbands, with a significant portion, in fact, being the primary breadwinner.
But even so, wives are still typically doing more of the work around the house. The same survey found that wives on average spend five hours more a week on caregiving responsibilities and two and a half hours more on housework. That’s seven and a half hours of inequity! Even when we factor in that on average husbands work about three hours more per week, the imbalance remains.
And guess who has more time for leisure activities? Yep, husbands reported spending an average of two and a half hours more per week on leisure activities compared to what wives reported.
All of this worries me. It is hard to be your best—at home, and at work—if you are tired, or resentful.
I will 100% respect any wife who tells me they love how their home runs and they are fine with their to-do items taking more time. But if you read those statistics and you were nodding in frustration, or maybe even had a bit of exhausted resentment, I hear you too. And I want you to know this is something that two people who love each other and are truly committed to each other, can address together.
Step 1: No shame. No anger. No blame. I don’t want you to go down the rabbit hole of whose fault this is, or how this imbalance occurred. All that matters is that you want to fix it. And your spouse wants to fix it. That only can happen if no one is pointing fingers or attacking.
Step 2: Focus on what will work for you going forward. Again, no attacking, or attempts to guilt someone into changing. That’s not how people who love each other want to communicate, right? Your goal should be to frame it in a way your spouse can see how their willingness to do more is helping you, and that helps the relationship. Maybe your script is something as direct as “We’re both working hard at our jobs. It would be a tremendous help to me if you could take on more of a role in the work that we do to keep our house running. When can we talk about some potential solutions?”
I think some of you may find that simply stating this fact and noticing that it bothers you (or exhausts you) on some level could be all it takes for you both to come up with some solutions. I say this with love, but sometimes women just do, do, do. And husbands of those doers can just get mighty comfortable with that dynamic. Doesn’t make them wrong. It just might be that they need to know you’d like more help.
Now, of course, I realize some of you may meet up with resistance. If that happens, take a step back and analyze what might be at play: Did you inadvertently attack, or pile on the guilt? Own that, if it happened, and start fresh.
But if you meet resistance because your husband doesn’t want to help you by taking on more, well that’s indeed a problem. And it’s likely a far deeper problem in your relationship than the division of housework. There are no quick solutions if that dynamic is dominating your relationship. But I insist that you keep reminding yourself that you are not wrong to raise the issue. You are not on sale. Not even in your marriages. Especially in your marriages! Whether it’s the advice and insights of good friends or professional therapy, I hope that you find the strength, and support to work on how to fix what might not be working in your marriage.