Women only?

Research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) on the housework undertaken by Australian boys and girls reveals that, despite the perception of equality, there remains a gender gap when it comes to household chores.

Diaries kept by 4000 ten and eleven year-olds reveal that girls do 38 minutes per week of housework, compared with 28 minutes for boys. Girls cook for six minutes daily, compared with three minutes for boys. This research is due to be released at the AIFS conference in late July.

Comment – Women are born to do housework

The Australian Institute of Family Studies is a relatively unknown gem which publishes highly worthy research revealing what really happens within our families. And the news is not good for those who believe men and women are equal and should be treated as such. Confirmation that young girls are more inclined to do household chores and cook is both unsurprising and depressing. I grew up in a household with two working parents – a rarity in the 60s. Dad worked long hours on a building site and mum worked long hours in an office. After hours and at the weekend mum did nearly all the housework and the cooking, while Dad often worked a second job to ensure my brother and I would receive an education. Interestingly, both my brother and I were required to do housework, including cooking, ironing and vacuuming. My mother had equal expectations of us both. She was clearly ahead of her time.

In the 70s the women’s liberation movement hit us like a tornado. Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan told women they should demand their right to equal work and pay and equality at home, with shared housework. Yet here we are, 40 years later, with some gains, but nowhere near the ‘liberation’ we were told was ours for the taking. The AIFS research confirms what is happening in nearly every adult household in Australia. Men work, women work, women do most of the housework and women do most of the cooking. Yes, young fathers now do more parenting. Undoubtedly. But the basic, boring, repetitive household tasks are still performed mainly by women. For women who work, they really do get to ‘have it all’. A full-time job AND doing the dishes late at night. Perhaps even a job, changing nappies and doing the dishes late at night.

Will this ever change? It’s possible, but unlikely. This is not an anti-male rant. It will take a change of attitude from both men and women before this situation changes. Just as men may need to step up and do more around the house, women need to allow them to do so. Thinking you can do things faster or better than the man in your life means you may get stuck with the job forever.

And this is not an anti-husband rant, either.

I think I am married to one of those rare creatures who actually does at least 50 per cent of our household chores, if not more. We both work similar hours and simply get on with the tasks at hand. I consider myself very lucky.

What’s the situation in your home like?
Is it only natural to expect a woman to  ‘own’ the housework? Or are Australian men and women capable of changing?

Read the Herald Sun report on AIFS research
AIFS conference

Follow Kaye on Twitter: @Kaye_YLC

Is housework ‘naturally’ women’s work?

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