Yes, we're still talking about unfair divisions of labor after baby. The latest: A new study shows working moms are shouldering more domestic tasks than dads.
Apparently, a woman's work is never done. A new study that will be published in the Journal of Marriage and Family reveals that when a working couple has a new baby, the woman's workload increases by two hours a day, while the man's only increases by 40 minutes. Talk about labor pains.
According to the findings, women picked up the slack on household tasks, like cooking and cleaning, and physical childcare responsibilities, like bathing, feeding and changing the baby. Guys did spend almost the same time as their female counterpart on engagement activities, like reading or playing with the new little one.
"Persistent gender norms continue to influence the roles and responsibilities that mothers and fathers take on," says Jill Yavorsky, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University. "In large part, this is because men still have societal expectations to be the breadwinner, so many expect their careers to take priority. Women, on the other hand, have high parental expectations placed on them. Their performance in motherhood plays a significant role in whether friends and family consider them successful women. Thus, many women feel the need to set high mothering and housework standards."
Another kink in keeping the flow of work even, Yavorsky adds, is that society still looks at men as "helpers" when it comes to parenting and domestic responsibilities, and women are looked at as the gatekeepers of everything child and home-related.
Researchers studied 182 highly-educated, dual-income couples where both spouses expressed an interest in continuing to work after the baby was born. The couples kept a thorough log of their time, tracking how they spent it over the course of 24 hours on both a workday and non-workday. Researchers checked in with them at two points: once during the third trimester of pregnancy and once when the baby was 9-months-old.
The results before the baby was born looked promising: Standard housework was pretty equally shared during pregnancy, and 95 percent of couples agreed that mothers and fathers should share equal responsibility when it came to childcare once the baby arrived.
Women's post-parenthood workloads outpaced their partners in all the hefty areas, which isn't good news, according to Yavorsky. "If men do not increase the time they spend on household and child care tasks, and share the workload more evenly, women may reduce their paid work hours or quit altogether," she says.
It's entirely possible to work it out, Yavorsky adds. If couples were able to structure their workload pre-baby, it's possible to get back to that. The key is communication, she says. Keep an open dialogue with your partner and meet regularly—maybe over a glass of wine on a Sunday night—to check on how household chores are being distributed.
It's time to be partners in time.