There are now more dirty dishes to wash, there's more trash to take out, and there are more areas of your house to organize and sanitize. You are also expected to balance working from home, managing the household, and taking care of the kids.
Due to schools and childcare centers closing down, your nannies and babysitters are also at home and quarantining, stated Brigid Schulte, author of "Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time." Schulte noted that we are in a “completely new space” and no matter how challenging and difficult it is, the new norm has opened up new avenues to engage in conversations. You might be frustrated about asking for more help from your partners and kids and not receiving it, but there are tips to make them help you in establishing a healthier home.
Division of Household Chores and Childcare During the Pandemic
Daniel L. Carson, Ph.D., Richard Petts, Ph.D., and Joanna R. Pepin, Ph.D. published a study on SocArXiv, an online pre-print server. They surveyed 1,060 US parents residing with a partner of a different sex in order to analyze how divisions of housework and childcare may have altered since the pandemic.
Regarding household chores, many mothers said they spent greater time cooking and preparing meals (43% doing more) and house cleaning (34%). Many fathers said they spent more time shopping for groceries (45%), washing the dishes (36%), and cleaning the house (35%). Few parents increased their time doing laundry (around 25% more). Regarding childcare, mothers were most likely to increase their time playing with children (43%), talking with children (40%), and helping with homework (39%). Many fathers spent more time playing with their kids (56%), talking with them (47%), and with physical care of younger children (42%).
Prior to the pandemic, 38% of parents shared routine housework relatively equally with their partner, and 50% shared care for young children relatively equally, though childcare and the mental load of organizing their kids’ lives were by and large the mother’s responsibilities. 60% said they shared care of older children. A little more than a month after the beginning of the pandemic, 53% said they shared housework with their partners, marking a 41% increase, while over 60% of partnered parents said they shared care of young and older children equally. The authors found that the proportion of sharing in the care of young children grew by approximately 22%.
Due to school closures, homeschooling became a new domestic task for many families with 89% of those with school-aged children saying they continued school during the pandemic for a median of three hours each day. More than half of respondents said they created or found educational content for their children. When asked who was responsible for this, 50% said it is the sole responsibility of the mother unlike 12% of those who said it is the father’s sole responsibility. 28% said both parents are responsible while 10% said they relied on other sources for content.
However, mothers who continue to shoulder most of childcare and housework during the pandemic were also more likely to shoulder homeschooling responsibilities. In 73% of cases, mothers who do most of the childcare were also responsible for providing them with educational content. Couples who share childcare during the pandemic were more likely to share responsibilities for homeschooling (33%), while 47% of those in more egalitarian relationships said homeschooling is the mother’s responsibility.
The authors concluded that there is potential for the pandemic to reshape gendered divisions of labor if fathers remain ore engaged at home once stay-at-home orders are lifted and kids go back to school. However, whether increased sharing of housework and childcare will continue to occur remains to be seen.
How to Divide Household Chores
1. Switch Up Routines
Working as a primary school teacher in Marietta, Georgia, Gisel Smith also managed all the household chores before the pandemic. Now, her husband is working from home during the evening, commenting that she “doesn’t have that time.”
Smith and her husband met regularly to discuss what’s working for them as well as small details they could improve on. For example, he might make up for the lack of an evening walk—in which he was responsible—with cleaning the kitchen.
A chore sheet has been placed for Smith’s family to see, which allows her three sons to mark the tasks they have accomplished, regardless of the order. The Smith family encourages their sons to understand the value of helping out with chores by telling them that they are a team. Instilling the value of collectiveness prompted their children to help their parents without the latter asking.
2. Reframe How You Value Time
You and your partner need to reframe how you value time and create a goal that aims to rebalance the hours needed for domestic work, suggested Eve Rodsky of Time, an American weekly news magazine. The reality is that for straight couples, managing the household and doing chores falls on the female partner. You only have 24 hours and only when you believe that time is equally valuable will division of labor become more equal in your relationship.
3. Know What You Want
Ask yourself: Who am I? What do I want to achieve when negotiating the household workload? Should there be less resentment and promote fairness? Know what you want, start the conversation, and lay out your concerns with your partner. You can experiment making tasks automatic responsibilities for your partner. For example, if you are the last person out of bed, you have to make it. Did someone feel better or supported? Afterwards, you can move on to bigger experiments like creating a spreadsheet that outlines the tasks needed to manage the household.
Work with your partner to refine the spreadsheet. Don’t forget to check in with your partner too, stated Jill Yavorsky, assistant professor in the sociology department and organizational science program at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. "Honest conversations and honest listening are the keys to really finding your way to fairness and recognizing that it's going to look different for every couple based on what your expectations are,” she said.
Parents and children need to communicate with regard to the proper management of the household. Families can create a schedule or a list that details who is going to take care of some of the chores. Overall, dividing household chores promotes parity and instills the value of collectivity in families.