When new couples first start living together, they often face a period of adjustment. Common areas of relationship fine-tuning include agreeing on the right way to hang the toilet paper, the proper use of a coaster, the expected location of dirty clothes, and the correct position of the toilet lid. After years of being together, a couple often develops explicit and implicit understandings that allow them to get into a sort of rhythm.
One common area of tension in a new relationship is the division of responsibilities around the house. Some couples allocate domestic duties based on traditional (although sexist) norms. In contrast, others divide them up based on more practical considerations such as who is available at the time, or who has the most (or least) interest in doing a particular task.
Statistically, however, women do more than their fair share of household activities. According to the 2018 American Time-Use Survey (conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor), on an average day more women (84%) than men of (69%) spend some time doing “household activities” (such as housework, cooking, lawn care or household management). Not only do more women engage in household activities each day than men, but they spend more time doing it (2.6 hours for women vs. 2.0 hours) than men. As for the subcategory of housework (cleaning or doing laundry), 49% of women do it each day compared to only 20% of men. Similarly, in the subcategory of food preparation, 69% of women spend time doing it each day, vs. 46% of men (although the 46% is up from just 35% in 2003). To restate the obvious, women most often perform domestic chores more frequently and for longer periods than men.
Some may argue that a fair division of household duties is negatively impacted by employment obligations. For example, the time spent commuting, the number of hours worked, and the physical, mental, and emotional demands of a job may impact the ability or willingness to perform an equal share of the household chores. If employment were the primary factor in a fair allocation of household chores, one would expect those duties to reach a state of equilibrium after retirement (when the employment obligations no longer apply). But statistics do not bear that out.
For example, women 65 to 74 years of age average 2.82 hours each day working on household activities, whereas men of the same age average only 2.03 hours per day. Over the course of a year, women in this age category will perform the equivalent of seven 40-hour weeks’ worth of household activities more than their male counterparts. The same holds for those over the age of 75 – women average 2.32 hours of household activities per day, compared to the 1.89 hours by men. While the annual impact is less than for those in the 65 to 74 age group, women 75 and older will still be involved in the equivalent of three 40-hour weeks’ worth of household chores more than their male partners.
Rebalancing Household Duties After Retirement
Attorney Greg Bishop, located in Park City, UT, suggests that retirement is the perfect opportunity to rebalance domestic chores more fairly between partners. He suggests the following:
- Do No Harm: Although the Hippocratic Oath does not actually include the proverbial language, “first, do no harm,” it is nevertheless great counsel – particularly around the house. A good starting point in achieving a fair balance is not making things worse. As suggested in the Mom Rules: If you sleep on it, make it up. If you wear it, hang it up. If you drop it, pick it up. If you eat out of it, wash it. If you spill it, clean it up. If you turn it on, turn it off. If you open it, close it. If you move it, put it back. If you break it, clean it up. If you empty it, fill it up.
- Do the Tasks Your Partner Dislikes: Doing the tasks that your partner dislikes not only helps balance the workload between the two of you (which is a matter of fairness), it also makes deposits in your partner’s emotional bank account (which is a matter of connection). Doing those tasks will not only be more appreciated by your partner; it will be more fulfilling for you because it transforms the task into a gift.
- Change Your Mindset: As you take on tasks that are new to you, remember that you are not doing your partner’s job, you are doing your job. Continuing to think of a task as something the other person should be doing – for whatever reason – will lead to unnecessary resentment and frustration.
- Simplify: Clean and organize those areas where you keep your stuff – particularly if it is a source of friction with your partner. Retirement is the ultimate spring cleaning – a chance to reassess what should be kept, donated, and tossed. But limit your cleaning and reorganizing to your parts of the house – don’t reorganize your partner’s side of the closet.
About Greg Bishop, Attorney of Park City
Greg Bishop is a business-oriented corporate attorney who always strives for improvement. He makes it a practice to only hire people who are smarter than him so that his team can raise the bar in helping the company be successful. He is passionate about living life to the fullest and helping others reach their full potential.