Watching my boyfriend wash the dinner dishes, I jump up and offer to help him out in some way. He politely refuses and reminds me, “you need to finish your homework. It’s okay, I can do it, I do not mind at all. Just go ahead and work while I do this.” He turns back to do the dishes leaving me heavy with guilt. I sit and watch him for a few minutes and wonder what example was set for him to be so considerate and not even bat an eye. I later discovered that his own father had helped his mother out consistently and never complained about it because “that is what men do.”
As I sat there thinking, I began to think about how similar our relationship is to my parent and how different it must be from previous generations. As a child, I watched my mother manage the household chores while my father handled the outside responsibilities. This was their compromise because my mother worked outside the home. I also watched my father make dinner on the nights that my mom worked late. He endured jokes from his male coworkers for helping my mom, but he always reminded them that he wasn’t helping my mother because it was his house and responsibility too. I feel like these values are invaluable as gender stereotypes have pervaded throughout the centuries.
Becoming a mother does not take away from a woman’s desire to continue working and over the past 20 years, men have become more supportive of women achieving higher education and careers before beginning families. The average age of marriage in 2000 was around 25. Now, it averages about 28 for both men and women. For many, it is about financial security, educational goals, and a secure career establishment before saying “I do.” Because of this, when couples do marry women are more likely to stay in their careers. This means that household work no longer falls solely on the woman but that men are pitching in more than their predecessors.
There also has been a rise in men —particularly fathers—taking on more responsibilities in child rearing. You will find exuberant fathers on sidelines at games cheering on their children or doling out snacks for the littles. You might find moms teaching their children how to work on the family car. The household responsibilities are being shared by both whereas in the past they were divided based on gender. In the early 2000s, the views of women and men have shifted toward equitable division of labor in and out of the home as many families have two income households. Men’s view toward women as the nurturing provider of the children is also changing as they support the women around them.
Overall, the percentage of men who believe they are doing half the household chores have gone up although women disagree with the exact percentage that men claim. However, the important part to note is that the percentage of men contributing has gone up over the past 20 years creating more equality in the household as well as in the workforce. It is interesting to see the progressive changes over the years and how society demands an equitable division of labor in households and in the workforce.