Offer it to your wife and make yourself useful.

Last week I was having dinner at my in-laws when I noticed my sister-in-law refrain from asking my husband, her brother, for help in the kitchen because he was busy sipping on a beer and relaxing on the couch with the other gents. After getting over the fact that no one had offered the women folk a drink, I encouraged her to reconsider while pouring her a glass of wine.

Her action was innocent. A natural instinct and maybe if it had been an isolated incident I wouldn’t have interfered. But, I’m tired of passively accepting the gender gap when it comes to housework and witnessing other women perpetuate it (intentionally or not). I’ve had it with family gatherings where the men exit the dining room leaving dirty dishes behind. Especially after inhaling a delicious meal prepared by the matriarch of the family. I’m done setting the table for these entitled chauvinists who justify their actions or inaction by the excuse that they go to work all day or that they handle seasonal, irregular chores like mowing the lawn once a week and shoveling the driveway (when the hired contractor doesn’t make it on time that is!). I’m bored of their couch potato demeanor when the kids have to take a bath, the laundry isn’t done and a lunch should be prepared for a pregnant wife who needs to eat every hour so she doesn’t turn into a gremlin.

To be fair and not wrongfully accused of being a hardline feminist, more men are picking up the broom, well actually the spatula. According to a recent study by StatsCan, 76% of men are participating in household work (mostly meal prep), up 25% from 30 years ago. Still, considering that the employment rate of women has skyrocketed to 82% and their rate of participation in household tasks has remained virtually unchanged at 93% and accounts for 61% of total hours spent on caring for the home and kids, we’ve got to ask ourselves if men really are contributing their fair share? It seems that while men are doing “more” women are now bringing home the bacon, cooking it as well as cleaning up after it nearly two-thirds of the time. What’s more, the average amount of time men spent helping out in the house has increased by a mere 20 minutes for the same 30 year time period….hmmmm.

There’s a popular video on Facebook with a man preaching to his friend about how he does not “help” his wife at home. That he does the dishes, takes care of the kids and cleans the house quite simply because he ate in those dishes, the kids, in addition to the house, are also his to take care of and he does it all with no expectation of praise. While the video was likely a fictional story and more likely produced by a woman, at the time of my viewing it received 125K reactions and over 820K shares. It was a heated topic as both sexes commented back and forth about the role of each partner in a relationship. In short the conversations looked somewhat like:

Man: “I work and provide for the family financially.”

Woman: “I don’t get a break after an 8 hour shift and weekends are no picnic either.”

It’s interesting that after so many years the conversation has stayed the same while the statistics have changed dramatically. With the percentage of dual-income households having almost doubled from 36%  to 69% in the last 40 years, it’s obvious that this old adage doesn’t hold true anymore. Looks like most of today’s working women were too busy to chime in on the aftermath of this post.

That said, even if most families were to consist of one working adult, the idea that all household responsibilities should fall on the stay at home parent isn’t quite reasonable. The amount of time it takes to maintain a home and care for children cannot be compared to a 9 to 5 and I’ve been on both the paid and unpaid side of the labour force. Moreover, we need to be teaching our kids, especially our boys how to take care of themselves. Dad should never be an excuse for why they aren’t helping around the house and they shouldn’t find themselves unable to use a washing machine or prepare a simple meal at 30 years old.

Aside from burnt-out and frustrated wives, there are other, more severe, consequences to maintaining the model that men are the bread-winners and women the home-makers. One study has shown that husbands are more likely (30% more) to die shortly after losing their wives, while widowed women carry on as normal. I assume there is a strong relationship with ones inability to care for himself and impending death.

Many women who decide to stay at home struggle with issues like self-worth often times feeling devalued. A loving partner should understand this and make an effort to counter it. Sharing household responsibilities demonstrates a mutual respect and appreciation for one another and undoubtedly has the ability to strengthen relationships.  Personally, I find my husband much more attractive when he’s supporting an apron or holding a toilet brush.



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