The Invisible Workload That Drags Women Down

There's another gender gap—but people rarely talk about it.

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In any household, parity is important.

That’s especially true when it comes to household chores. In order for a household to function effectively, each person must handle a fair share of the burden.

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Unfortunately, women still perform the majority of the household chores, according to several recent studies. The National Science Foundation reports that on average, husbands create an extra seven hours of housework per week for their wives. Wives, on the other hand, save their husbands from performing about an hour of housework each week.

That’s a massive disparity, and although the household gender gap has diminished somewhat over the past several decades, it’s still a substantial issue. Here’s what we know.

Couples who share housework responsibilities are often happier.

In a review of household labor practices, researcher Scott Coltrane wrote that “More balanced divisions of housework are associated with women perceiving fairness, experiencing less depression, and enjoying higher marital satisfaction.”

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In other words, women tend to be happier when the household chores are distributed evenly. They also tend to be more satisfied with their relationships (something that their husbands should probably keep in mind when the floors need mopping).

However, some household tasks can actually decrease stress levels.

A study conducted by Florida State University found that washing dishes could promote mindfulness, essentially acting as a form of meditation. In fact, the chore could decrease stress and promote relaxation in the right circumstances.

According to the research, when people focused on “the smell of the soap, the warmth of the water, [and] the feel of the dishes” while doing this task, they were able to decrease nervousness by 27 percent. These individuals also experienced a 25 percent improvement in “mental inspiration.”

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This effect, of course, varies greatly from one household to the next. Although dishwashing might be a mindful practice for some, it’s a terrible experience for others. Still, many women say that they handle additional chores out of love for their families rather than a simple sense of obligation.

Recently, blogger Ellen Seidman of Love That Max wrote a piece about the mental burdens that mothers feel compelled to bear.

“I am the person who observes, right before bedtime, that various iDevices are lying around uncharged,” Seidman wrote. “I am the person who finds the bag of clothing on the floor of the car that was supposed to be returned to the store three weeks ago. I am the person who foresees needing gifts for the birthday party, graduation party, anniversary party, every party…”

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“…I rarely get credit for my observational talents. I see, I do and I conquer, tirelessly and without complaint. Er, mostly without complaint. OK, I complain. But has our family ever had a t.p. crisis? Nope. It doesn’t take a village—it takes me. Because I am that person who notices we are running out of toilet paper. And therefore, I rock.”

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Ultimately, we’d love to see the household gender gap disappear entirely. However, there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking pride in the way that you support your family, either; check out Seidman’s full essay here.

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