I doubt anyone is surprised by this statistic. I agree that it is unfair. But I am also inclined to think "so what?" It seems to me that the female scientists have it about right- housework should be split roughly 50-50 in a household in which both partners also work outside the home. The male scientists are getting a free ride on the housework, but it doesn't necessarily follow that they are spending that extra time on their science. For all we know, they are spending their extra time at the pub drinking beers. In fact, the study found that the men and women were spending roughly the same amount of time in the lab/office:
"Partnered science faculty in our sample average nearly sixty hours a week at work. Men and women scientists log the same number of hours (mean hours for men is 56.4, mean for women 56.3, and standard deviations—about 11—are the same as well)."
So this study just tells me that a woman who wants to work outside the home should be wary of marrying an academic scientist. Those dudes aren't pulling their fair share of the household chores, and their wives aren't getting their fair share of the time at the pub drinking beers. My take home message from this study is very similar to the advice I already give young women scientists who are wondering about how to balance career and home life- namely, to choose your partner carefully.
I actually find the 54% number heartening, even though a closer look at the numbers shows that the partners of these women are not actually doing 46% of the work- these couples are using paid help, such as cleaners, to fill the gap. Still, the numbers show a far more equitable distribution of household labor than what is normally presumed to happen. I have written before about how Hubby and I have a very equal split of household chores. Anytime I comment about this on a women in science blog, I get told that my arrangement is not normal. But these statistics indicate that there actually are other women scientists with a similar arrangement.
Another type of comment I've seen a lot on blog's like Female Science Professor is the plea for specifics. The writers of these comments want to know exactly how women with successful careers and "balanced" home lives arrange things. I have replied to these sorts of comments with the observation that the specifics are going to vary for different families. Heck, the specifics are varying within my family for different babies. The things we did to make our lives work when we had a baby who didn't sleep very well are different from what we're doing now, with a baby who sleeps pretty well and a toddler.
I still think that each family will need to work out the specifics for themselves, based on the constraints provided by their jobs, their children, and their tolerance for mess/dirt in the house. However, I thought I'd share one of the things that works really well for us. We use a chores schedule to make sure that Hubby and I are on the same page about what needs to get done and when, and to help us carve out some guilt-free time to not be doing chores.
Here's how it works: I (with input from Hubby) wrote up a schedule showing all of the recurring chores that need to get done. I also included opportunities to pull one time chores from our master to do list. Here is our current schedule:
|Week 1 (Cleaner comes)||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|Monday||to do list chore or extra shopping||photos||clean bathrooms||photos|
|Tuesday||garbage out||garbage out||garbage out, pay bills*||garbage out|
|Wednesday||to do list chore or pay bills*||to do list chore or pay bills*||clean kitchen (cabinets, stove, etc)||to do list chore or pay bills*|
|Thursday||garage cleanup**||Free||clean living room, sweep floors||Free|
|Weekend||Outside chores, water plants, meal plan, declutter, sort mail, grocery shopping, laundry||Outside chores, water plants, meal plan, declutter, sort mail, grocery shopping, laundry + 1 deep clean chore||Outside chores, water plants, meal plan, declutter, sort mail, grocery shopping, laundry + clean bedrooms||Outside chores, water plants, meal plan, declutter, sort mail, grocery shopping, laundry|
Every night: dishes, clean booster seat, sweep kitchen
As needed: Make bread (we have a breadmaker, and use it to keep Pumpkin supplied with the bread- often the only thing she'll eat from our dinner)
* pay bills 2x/month, on which ever weeks contain the 1st and the 15th
**run washer cleaning treatment, pick up clutter
Each night's chores are supposed to only take about 30 minutes to do. Every night, someone gives Pumpkin a bath, someone reads her stories, and then I snuggle her to sleep (this last step takes about 20-30 minutes). Petunia's bedtime is so easy that it doesn't figure into the planning- at about 6:45, I nurse her, burp her, and put her into her cosleeper, and then she falls asleep. (And no, I don't know why Petunia's bedtime is so easy. If I did, I'd write a book about it and get rich. I think we just got lucky.)
Whoever is not giving Pumpkin a bath either cleans up the kitchen or picks the chore from the schedule. The person giving the bath does the same once he or she is done with his/her part of the bedtime routine- if the kitchen is already clean, he/she does a chore. Otherwise, he/she cleans the kitchen. Sometimes it is obvious from the chore who needs to do the kitchen. For instance, on nights when "photos" is the chore, I clean the kitchen, because Hubby does the photos in our family.
There are also weekend chores, and obviously, someone has to cook dinner every night. Hubby does the yard work on the weekends, because I am quite allergic to a lot of things in the yard, like grass. I do the cooking during the week more often than Hubby, because I get home from work first. I also do the meal planning, because it makes Hubby really cranky to do it, and I don't usually mind.
This system works well for us. Hubby and I don't waste our precious "adults only" time after the girls are both in bed arguing about chores. We each know what needs to get done every night, so we don't waste time and energy figuring out what needs to be done. It is important that all of the recurring tasks that either partner considers a chore must be on the schedule. This ensures that there are no problems where one person "sees" a chore that the other doesn't, and starts to get resentful because he/she is always doing that chore. It is also important to revisit the chores schedule from time to time, because things change. For instance, we suspect we'll need to add a mid-week load of laundry to the schedule once we're both back at work and no one is at home during the day to do a quick load of laundry to get us through to the weekend.
The system is not perfect, though. We're currently struggling to figure out how to make sure that we each get some nights off without having to discuss it- we want that to just happen automatically if we follow the schedule. Right now, since I always do the last step of Pumpkin's bedtime, I find that I tend to feel like I should be doing a chore- I can't goof off until that night's chores are done. Therefore, I don't get many nights off. And everyone needs a night off now and then. Because if you work your fingers to the bone, and what do you get? Boney fingers.
(My Mom used to play this song while we cleaned the house. I plan to do the same for my kids some day.)