Babies shift the household balance – and not in your favor


We love when science puts data behind what we've been thinking all along. A new report, published in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that women primarily shoulder the burden of new parenthood. That may not sound like news, but the key point is that men thought they were sharing the load, when in fact they were letting their partners do the bulk of the baby work.

The study zeroed in on 182 highly educated, dual-career couples who claimed that sharing the workload at home evenly was important to them. Before baby's arrival, these couples
split household chores, such as cleaning, cooking and shopping, equally. Later, with a baby under their roof, couples were asked to estimate how much time they devoted to household chores and childcare. Those approximated numbers were recorded before researchers tasked the couples with keeping detailed diaries of their time.

The results? Both parents claimed their responsibilities increased by four hours, when, in fact, the diaries told a much different story. The workload for women increased by two hours, where the men's daily chores increased only by 40 minutes.

"The birth of the child dramatically changed the division of labor in these couples," Jill Yavorsky, co-author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State, said in a report published in Medical News Today. "What was once a relatively even division of household work no longer looked that way."

What was most surprising to researchers was that the study's participants – very educated, high-earning couples – had all the traits thought to make for the most equal partnerships. But once a child was born, the balance shifted sharply in the male's favor. The research showed men completed 10 hours of childcare each week, changing diapers and handling bath time. On the other hand, women shouldered 15 hours of baby care per week. When it came time for more fun activities with baby, men stepped up their game, reading and playing with their kids for four hours, as opposed to women's six hours doing the same thing.

One of the study's co-authors, Claire Kamp Dush, had this to say in Medical News Today about the disparity: "The key is that this new routine seems to be that the woman is doing more of the housework and more of the childcare, while not doing any less paid work. The egalitarian relationship they had before the baby was born is essentially gone."

While moms tend to take ownership of the baby's care, the study's co-authors urged couples to focus on keeping the division of labor equal when it comes to household chores. The research is there: Both men and women handled the same amount of chores prior to baby – so why should anything change once a little one is on the scene?

Have you and your partner talked about how your household will work once your son or daughter arrives? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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