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Researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the University College London Institute for Education surveyed 3,500 families with two opposite-gender parents about how they're sharing paid and domestic work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey responses reveal that, compared to their male partners, women are more likely to have left paid work or have seen their work hours reduced substantially. Even when moms are able to work from home, they spend more time than fathers juggling childcare and household chores, the surveys shows.
On average, the moms in the study spent more than 10 hours a day looking after children, compared to fathers' eight hours. Women also did almost two hours more housework a day than their partners, according to the study.
There was some promising news. Overall, fathers took on more childcare and housework duties than before the pandemic. And in households where the dad lost his job but the mom kept hers, fathers split childcare and housework about evenly with mothers.
"Fathers, on average, are doing nearly double the hours of childcare they were doing prior to the crisis," researcher Sonya Krutikova said in a statement. "It may serve as an impetus for a more equal sharing of childcare and housework between mothers and fathers after lockdown ends."
The researchers didn't survey single moms (who are undoubtedly struggling even more than moms with a supportive partner) or women in same-sex relationships. The study also relied on people accurately reporting the time they spent on household duties in a survey, rather than objective measurements.
While there are no easy fixes to the unprecedented stressors many families are facing during this time of upheaval, there are some tried-and-tested strategies for dividing childcare and housework duties fairly with your partner. Some top tips include:
- List your responsibilities for a week. You and your partner keep a separate, one-week log of house chores and childcare. Then compare the lists. If one person's list is much longer than the other partner's, see if there's a way to divide the responsibilities more evenly.
- Communicate your needs. Tell your partner exactly what you need help with, rather than simply grumbling that you have too much to do.
- Make a schedule. Work together to divide up chores according to each person's preferences and abilities. Negotiate and take turns. For example, one person cooks dinner and cleans up Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the other on Mondays and Wednesdays, and you order takeout the other days.
- Shed traditional expectations. It can be hard to shake traditional patterns of behavior and assumptions about our roles as mothers or fathers. Talk through any feelings of unease with your partner so you can move past them.
For more in-depth ideas, check out our articles on dividing household duties and successful strategies for working at home.
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