When it comes to taking care of the baby and the house, modern dads say they want to be equal partners.
But when Saturday arrives, new research shows men are often on the couch while women are the ones doing housework with a “leisure time” discrepancy of more than 50 minutes a day on the weekends. The study revealed that women were more likely than men to spend their weekends watching kids or performing housework. So after a long week of watching kids or clocking hours on the job, what does mom do more of than dad? Work.
Claire M. Kamp Dush, Ph.D., an associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, and lead author of the new study, says she is hopeful we can all find more balance. It’s just going to take some hard discussions—and an understanding that there’s more than one way to load a dishwasher or dress a baby.
The study published in the journal Sex Roles saw Ohio State researchers tracking how 52 dual-income couples spent their time on a minute-by-minute basis as they welcomed their first child. The participating couples kept time diaries for workdays and non-workdays during the third trimester and for about three months after the baby’s birth.
The researchers expected to see a lot of entries where mom and dad were doing childcare or housework together, but they didn’t.
“Men actually increased their time doing leisure while she was doing work across the transition of parenthood,” Kamp Dush shares. “It actually got worse once the baby was there.”
According to Kamp Dush, there are a couple of factors behind this disappointing dynamic.
“One thing that’s going on is women have a lot of societal pressure put on them to be perfect mothers. So if something is less than perfect with the baby or the house, the consequences are coming back on them,” she explains, adding this pressure to have everything done to high standards may lead some moms to micromanage their partners.
If a dad is slacking, Kamp Dush suggests moms ascertain what his motivations are. Often, she says the solution may be as simple as empowering him to do things his own way. (Even if it isn’t the outfit you would have picked for the baby...)
“It may also be the case that he just doesn't want to do it and he enjoys his leisure time,” says Kamp Dush. If that’s the case, she suggests calmly explaining the cost that his rest requires you pay. That may prompt him to do a bit more because, as Kamp Dush says, “He might also enjoy having a happier spouse and co-parent.”
The earlier you can have these conversations, the better
Unaddressed resentment in relationships tends to build overtime, which is why it’s essential to check in on how you (and your partner) are feeling early and often.
Kamp Dush suggests moms with heavy mental loads write down the tasks and duties they’re dealing with. Then rip the list in half and hand it to dad. Couples can certainly negotiate the listed responsibilities, but the important thing is that they’re not all on mom.
“Then, you’re going to have to let it go,” she explains. “Men know how to do these things. As women, we need to just let them do it.”
When dads are more empowered and moms feel like their household responsibilities are more balanced, the whole family is going to be better off.