Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is it a Dad’s Duty to Clean the House?

Which is more believable:

  • Is it a dad’s duty to clean the house?
  • Is it a mom’s duty to clean the house?
What is your first reaction?

If you’re a mom, do you laugh out loud at the thought of it being a dad's duty to clean? Do you think “I only wish?” Or is it true in your family that dad and mom share the house cleaning?

If you’re the dad, do you do most of the cleaning? Or does your wife do all/most of it? Split 50/50?

A couple of weeks ago I was reading a post titled “Is it a mom's duty to clean house?” by a blogger friend Jenny (of Suburban Jungle And it got me thinking about gender roles in housework.

You see, I’m old enough to recall the ‘50s and ‘60s when TV families all had a husband working a full time job and the wife at home cooking, cleaning and caring for the children. But then came the woman’s liberation movement and a move towards equality both in the workplace and a home.

But today is there equality in the workplace and at home?

Today, women have achieved much in the workplace compared to the ‘60s. Back then, my mother was the rare example of a woman in a major corporation with a professional position (i.e., not a secretary or administrative assistant) and, without a husband, got a mortgage, bought a house and was the sole provider of our extended family household of six! I mention this so you understand I grew up with a mother who was a true pioneer, though she would never admit that herself.

Some 40 years later, my mother’s situation is commonplace. Women can be found in virtually all jobs and professions. And there’s been an evolution in the workplace. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s there was resistance from some men to having women in some jobs and professions. But, my observation is that now it’s more “just the way it is” to have both men and women in the workplace. There is still an income gap and the issue of a “glass ceiling” in some fields, but, still, much progress has been made.

But, while change has come in the workplace, it seems to me that equality in the home seems to be still an elusive goal. When my mother re-married in the ‘70s and they both commuted to the city and worked 8-hour days, it still fell upon her to handle the domestic work. Even today, my observation from some of the comments on Jenny’s blog posts and other sources is that some women still do much of the house cleaning chores, even if some husbands do help out. Although, some comments from women indicated that they don’t trust their husbands to do the cleaning.

For those well off financially (particularly with couples of 2 high earning professionals), “equality” can be obtained by outsourcing the domestic chores to cleaning services or a domestic. In fact, Jenny's blog mentions that now she has someone to do her cleaning for her.

Yet, most families can’t afford that. So why does it seem the cleaning still falls to the woman?

There really is no anatomical reason that men can’t clean a house as well as a woman. In fact, I’ve known men who are quite skilled at the domestic. Now, a good number may be gay, but regardless, I believe any man can do as good a job as a woman.

So, what is the domestic “glass wall” that keeps women “manning” the oven and vacuum and washer/dryer? How does it work in your family?

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