In the most recent issue of Time magazine, reporter Ruth Konigsberg writes:
“If there was one time in my marriage when life felt the most unfair, it was during the witching hour. When our children were young and I was working from home, I would relieve our babysitter at 5 p.m. and start to feed and bathe our 3-year-old and 6-month-old and begin various pre-bedtime rituals. By 6 p.m., this thought would be running through my head: If my husband doesn’t come home from the office soon to help, I’m going to lose my mind. By 7 p.m., my panic would turn to anger: Do I have to do everything?”
As more families are forced to rely on two incomes to make ends meet, Ms. Konigsberg’s frustration is one shared by more and more working mothers. But surprisingly, as Konigsberg discovered, men have stepped up their game when it comes to child care and household chore duties. Dads have nearly tripled their domestic contributions since 1965.
When paid plus unpaid labor are taken into account (work responsibilities combined with home duties), men spent just 20 minutes less per day working than women.
In fact, a growing concern among many of today’s dads is how to spend more time on the domestic front as societal norms increasingly expect fathers to be involved with home chores and child care activities.
So why might have some women like Konigsberg felt as if they were unduly burdened with the lion share of the housework and kid care?
It may be because we are all being forced to work harder. Americans now work 122 hours a year more than the English and 378 hours more than the Germans. As former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich points out in his book Aftershock, even though Americans are the most productive people on the planet, our wages adjusted for inflation have barely risen in the past 20 years.
We’re working harder for the same amount of money. So it’s not just mothers feeling the pinch but fathers as well. And the recession has only made things worse.
As Mother Jones magazine recently noted, although corporate profits are booming, American companies refuse to hire more workers. Instead they’ve consciously chosen to work their current employees to the bone.
Many of us are now taking on the responsibilities of two or three workers. Extra hours and extra tasks are becoming the norm, and family life is suffering. Quality time with the kids is interrupted with messages on the Blackberry or sabotaged by constant worrying over tomorrow’s work agenda.
It seems what we should be most frustrated with is a corporate culture that requires us to work far more for much less.
Do you feel there is an equal distribution of domestic work in your marriage? How does your family balance insane work demands with a quality family life?