Want to do less housework? Marry a teacher or a nurse; don’t become one.
New research from University of Notre Dame Sociologist Elizabeth Aura McClintock suggests married or cohabitating men working in heavily female occupations such as teaching, childcare work, or nursing, spend more time doing housework, compared to men employed in traditionally male jobs.
McClintock used data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics for the years 1981-2009 and followed men as they made career shifts. Just as the men increased the amount of housework they did when they took jobs in more female-dominated fields, they decreased their workload at home when they shifted into more male-dominated fields. Women decreased the amount of housework they did as their men picked up the load, and the overall amount of housework done dropped in those circumstances.
In an interview McClintock suggested men take on more responsibility at home in order to maintain their attractiveness to their spouse or partner. “When men change into female jobs they are viewed as less attractive,” she said.
She also noted in a press release, “Occupational sex composition is largely unrelated to housework for single men or women, suggesting that occupation influences housework through interactions and negotiations between romantic partners.”
Power is a factor in the housework balance too. Another study, this one from the University of California, Berkeley, indicates women who run their households have fewer career ambitions and less interest in promotions and raises at work. Ambition wasn’t affected when women shared household responsibilities with their spouses, only when they controlled them. UC Berkeley psychologist Serena Chen who co-authored that study said in a press release, “It appears that being in charge of household decisions may bring a semblance of power to women’s traditional role, to the point where women may have less desire to push against the obstacles to achieving additional power outside the home.”
It seems the housework gap is at least partially rooted in a subtle dance between couples looking to carve out their roles and identities within relationships. Hopefully as more couples let go of traditional gender roles and embrace roles based on their unique strengths, we’ll find a more fluid and equitable solution to the work life balance.