19 June, 2008

Housework is so sexy

First, the good news: Men are doing more than they used to, according to findings released in April by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. For example, in 1976, men did about six hours of housework per week; in 2005, that had increased to about 13 hours. Women, meanwhile, decreased their weekly housework from 26 hours in 1976 to 17 hours in 2005. Researchers based their conclusions on economic, health and social data collected on 8,000 American families since 1968.

And, says one expert, a more equitable division of household duties may lead to more intimacy in the bedroom.

"When a man does housework, it feels to the woman like an expression of caring and concern, which then physically reduces her stress," says Joshua Coleman, a San Francisco-area psychologist and author of "The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework."

"A guy can be completely stressed out and want to have sex to burn it off, but women are not wired like that," says Coleman, who is also a member of the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research organization. Instead, he says, women need to feel relaxed in order to feel sexy -- and it's hard to unwind when there are chores to be done and a husband who's oblivious to them. Calculate how much time you spend doing chores, working, relaxing »

Now, the bad news: The same research found that men create, on average, seven more hours of housework a week for women. That extra work may not be as obvious as doing the dishes or mowing the lawn. So-called "emotional labor" -- tasks like writing holiday cards, scheduling doctor appointments and planning family gatherings -- is too often left to wives, says University of Michigan sociologist Pamela Smock.

"As long as the invisible labor is borne by women, things aren't going to be equal, even if surveys show they are," Smock says. Such work can be a major source of mental stress, she adds.

And, it must be noted, men still do only 30 percent of the housework, according to a report released in March by the Council on Contemporary Families. That report analyzed data culled from more than a dozen studies over nearly 40 years, revealing wide-sweeping patterns in gender dynamics and housework in the U.S. and abroad. Read on >>

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