2011-08-04 / Relationships

Ladies, do you believe it? Men do as much at home as you

Ladies, they say we can’t expect to have it both ways.

For the longest time, so many of us have bitterly complained (or seethed in silence), convinced that the men in our lives get away with murder. We may have truly believed that men turn a blind eye as we juggle the demands of work, children and housework, with nary a concern that we may be overwhelmed and exhausted.

So many working women have been convinced that they leave their paid workday to assume what researcher “Arlie Hochschild” has called the second shift to take on the lion’s share of the responsibilities at home. While they may acknowledge that the men in their lives face enormous pressures at the workplace, especially in these challenging times, there has been a widespread assumption that even men who attempt to be helpful in the home, are largely let off the hook.

Not so, according to a recent Time Magazine cover story by Ruth Konigsberg, entitled “The Chore Wars.” Konigsberg, a working mother, expected to bolster her own belief that the two sexes carry drastically different, unequal workloads. Like the rest of us, she was quite surprised when the research simply did not back up her original premise.

In fact, the data released by the U.S. bureau of Labor Statistics concluded the following: In 2010, men and women who were married, childless and working full time (defined as more than 35 hours a week) had combined daily totals of paid and unpaid work (duties at home) that wwere almost exactly the same.

For those who had children under the age of 18, women employed full time did jjust twenty minutes more of combined ppaid and unpaid work than men did, the smallest difference ever reported. And although the report concluded that men were not clocking as many hours helping at home, comparatively women were not clocking as many hours at the office.

Konigsberg further reported that working fathers were the ones who were experiencing the most pressure as they tried to manage work responsibilities, in addition to carrying their fair share at home. Therefore: the widespread belief that working mothers have it worse — a belief that engenders an enormous amount of conflict between spouses — is simply not the openand shut case it once was.

Now, I predict a resounding chorus of dispute! Most of the women I know will shout, “The studies are wrong!g! My partner doesn’t do his share!” Well, it certainly may seem that way, but could thereere be some merit to the study?

Ladies, please don’t be angrygry that I’ve brought these findings to thee table. And men, please don’t use this dataata as ammua ammunition to retaliate or prove a point! Let’s be clear that these statistics do nothing to address the very real frustrationsions of both sexes. Nor, do thesese studies make recommendations - that could help to ease the burdens.

So where is the disconnect? Traditionally, our society has delineated specificc gender roles that the sexes have been struggling vigorously too change. Despite substantive shifts broughtought about by feminism, many women still consider themselves to be the “CEO’s of the domestic domain.” Men are most often the primary wage earners, and by necessity and/ or choice have focused on their careers, and have not been able to participate fully in the childcare and housework.

I don’t doubt for a moment the contention that men today are carrying a pretty hefty load. Most of the fathers I meet seriously assume the importance of their parenting responsibilities and understand the significant role they play in the emotional development of their children.

However, in these skittish times, many dads (especially, the primary breadwinners) are feeling unparalleled pressures and insecurities at work. They often worry that employers and colleagues will penalize them if they don’t put in long hours. They often lament that no matter how hard they try to help out and please their wives, it never seems enough! It would be a tremendous relief for them if they goes on the fritz. So, they don’t feel like their workday ever ends, or that they are ever able to truly relax. Even while they’re in the middle of their “so-called down time” (out to lunch with their friends or having a manicure), their brains are often working over-time, mentally calculating the weekly schedule, or whether they have to stop at Publix to pick up lettuce for tonight’s salad.

They are envious of their husband’s ability to enjoy down time (working out or watching a sports game), seemingly without a care in the world. They are often frustrated because it doesn’t seem as if he makes a genuine effort to be of help. And, it is human nature to notice what he isn’t doing, not what he does.

If both sides could only discard our scorecards, and sidestep the notion we are being pitted against each other, we might be able to take steps to soften the conflict. Trying to put ourselves in our partners shoes for a day, may gigive us an appreciation for the scope of their sstruggles. Giving each other clear feedback on how we can be of help contributes to the spirit of collaboration. ration. And of coucourse, supporting each other and acknowledgingacknowle well-intended efforts is critically important.im ¦

— Linda Lipshutz, LLCSW, ACSW is a psychotherapist chotherapist serving ser individuals, couples ples and fam families. She holds degrees from Cornell Cor and Columbia and complet completed post- graduate training ing at tthe Ackerman Institute for Marital M and Family Therapy apy in Manhattan. She can be reached in her Palm BBeach Gardens office at 630- 2827, or online at p almbeachfamily therapy.com.

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