The Domestic Man. Are They Pulling Their Weight?

As a mother, I struggle like most with balancing my responsibilities as a mom and business professional.  As an entrepreneur, I work to juggle my travel and consulting schedule as well as my husband’s with the demands of being a mother and executing the day to day household tasks.

Having my daughter nearly 3 years ago, changed my world for the better, but it also opened up my eyes to the domestic debate between husband and wife.  After maternity leave, my husband took the role of stay at home dad for nearly 10 months.  The economy collapsed and Greg’s long-term contract ended.  He took on several short consulting projects but for nearly a year he served as primary care giver while I balanced writing a book, being a new breastfeeding mother, and serving as the primary bacon bringer-homer for our family.

Our household has always been unconventional and non-traditional with my husband most times more than willing to pitch in with household chores.  The tension and stress soared those 10 months as I struggled to balance all three.  My mom stayed at home with me and my two sisters until I was in high school.  My husband’s mom worked part time but the children and household chores were always her primary responsibility.  We both had no clear role models to model our behavior after.

In the book, The Second Shift which was published in 1989, discussed the rise of women’s entry into the workforce and the household turmoil that ensued.  Career woman struggled with their new job and time restrictions, working more paid and unpaid hours working than men.  But new data tells a much different story.

The role of the traditional father has made a cultural shift.  Men, like my husband are scrubbing toilets, folding laundry, and more involved with their children.  In fact, men and women now spend nearly equal amounts of time with paid work and their domestic chores.  And men like women are struggling with work/life balance.  New data says 68% of men have experienced conflicts between their responsibilities as a parent and work.

I began to wonder, are men struggling the same way balancing their life and work like their female counter parts are?  Are they ridden with guilt when they leave their crying child at daycare for the first time?  And most importantly, have they ever woken up late at night wondering if they put the clothes in the dryer?

I likely think not, but then again I’m not a guy.  And yet, I woke up late last night wondering about the new role of the domestic man as I dragged my sleepy butt up to check the dishwasher.  Did I remember to turn that dishwasher on?  And are they (men) really pulling their weight?  The facts say yes, but I want to know what men and women really think.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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Comments

  1. Just to weigh in, I will call out a vote of support for my husband. If not for his help with kids and household chores they would have condemned my house by now. Managing our work-life balance is a two-person job. I worry about the dryer. He worries about the dishwasher. Thanks for this post Jessica.

    • Just curious, but why does it always seem to be that husbands “help” with the kids and household chores? Instead of doing what women do? Which is just “do”! The fact that some men “help” with these things implies it’s a woman responsibility to do them all in the first place.

      It’s like a man saying he has to babysit his child tonight. You don’t babysit your own child! A woman would never say she’s going to babysit her children. She just does what she has to do, be with her child. And yet when men do it, they’re “helping out”. argghh!

    • Thanks Lynn,

      In an effort to be fully transparent, I have a cleaning team that comes once a week to helps us get the house under control. I pick up the house with Greg on Sundays and my cleaning peeps scrub the toilets and mop the floors. It makes for much, much less stress on my part. As of right now they come weekly but even monthly was such a blessing.

      I might also mention that I work from home which also makes it much different for me than others. If the house is a mess, I must stare at it while I’m taking conference calls and working with clients. The thought of the clutter lingers while I’m at work because I’m steps away from the mess.

      JMM

  2. No, men at large are not doing as much housework as are women. Women spend approx 3 hours every day while men sped 1.5 hours. That’s not to say that a cultural shift isn’t in process – it’s comforting to think that it is, but there are clearly more women managing household responsibilities in addition to full-time employment than there are men.

    • @committedreader,

      Thanks for the comment. I just don’t think that men are programmed the same way and that’s okay. My hubby has other qualities that I love about him. Two people who are anal about the way one organizes the dishwasher is too much.

      JMM

  3. I have woken in the middle of the night so many times to thoughts of dishwashers, dryers, and doctor’s appointments…

    Even when I was married, I was a single mom. That is not to say that there are not many GREAT fathers who are also parenting partners out there, I just was not married to one of them.

    The guilt is horrible, but the need to put food on my table and keep my own sanity outweighed the guilt; children learn and are far more resilient than we give them credit for. The shift is happening. I have many friends that are great examples of TRUE co-parenting. I think the key is respect and communication. AND in mothers learning they do not HAVE to be Wonder Woman – life will go on if the clothes have to be washed twice or if dishes get left in the sink overnight or if your kid misses karate class.

    • Thanks Rayanne,

      I am fortunate that my husband is very involved. My ex-husband if we would have had children would likely have not. I’ve overcome most of the guilt but it sometimes still lingers. Of course Ryleigh’s getting older which makes this much easier. The more I parent, the more I learn.

      JMM

  4. One man’s answers:

    Struggling for work/life balance? Absolutely. Guilty at daycare drop off? You bet. (It doesn’t feel much better when the kids run off without a backward glance, but I guess it beats crying.) Clothes in the dryer? Not a thought, sleep like a baby. Dishwasher? Ditto. Pulling our weight? Some do, some don’t. You’ll have to ask my wife whether this one does. But overall I think more men are much more engaged with hearth and home than they were a decade ago, and feel much better about themselves for it.

    • Casey,

      Agree with your comment absolutely and the recent study from Time Magazine which I referenced doesn’t lie. Husbands are spending more time with their families and taking on a role that is much different than we grew up with. It works in our household and for that I am thankful.

      Thanks for the insightful comment!

      JMM

  5. Wish I could “like” your comment, Casey (as in click a “like” button) – I agree with you – it is far better than ten years ago and WAY better than 20. That’s progress and better for every family, every parent.

  6. yes, damnit, men are pulling their weight. i want nothing more than to be Don Draper and my wife to be Betty. i’d like to come home at any hour and have the first words out of her mouth be, “how was your day, honey? can i make you a drink?” sadly, those days are long gone and i spend my evenings giving baths, doing the dishes, straightening up…all of this after a terribly trying day at the office, a long commute, and a headache to boot. i don’t spend my weekends sitting on the couch with a beer in hand watching sports. i don’t play golf. i don’t “hang with the guys.” rather, i fix stuff. i shop. i run errands. i play barbie and princess.

    i am beholden to a job description which now includes many a domestic obligation. obligations which men even 20 years ago wouldn’t have been in their vocabulary. and, all jack-ass-ed-ness aside, i wouldn’t have it any other way!

  7. Jessica

    I can agree on that! My husband is a domestic man. It does not mean they (domestic men) do not have dreams or goals. They do. I think we see a man having a traditional role in the family- provider, a breadwinner and a protector.
    my husband was a corporate guy, but inside it was not his dream. His dream was to do things for kids, After Fortune 500 company let go of 1500 people he was one of them.
    The journey started. The mindset, the attitude of what a a man should be..
    I think as we women see that happening in our lives we feel often we are loosing our mind. Can we handle a man being at home when we work. and some of us work from home. So we see each other more. We want to spend time together and feel guilty if we do not..
    As you said it is about balance it is all possible. It makes us appreciate what our husbands do. Saying goes “behind every great man there is strong woman” I would say today the strong woman are side by side.
    Men struggle if they are masculine at core…Some men have more feminine at their core so they are easy adaptable to changes and can be a caregiver of kids and family.
    One more thing…
    There is no favoritism. Everybody gives 100% of what they can give..I think it is a best way to be balanced..

    Tatyana

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