Until Dust Do Us Part: In a New Study the Dirty Truth Is Revealed about Men, Women and Housework: Nobody Really Wants to Do It

Article excerpt

Byline: Dirk Johnson

Once upon a time, men were treated like indulged children in the house, as women bustled about cleaning, sweeping, cooking. That was 50 years ago, some men say. That was this morning, some women say.

Want to start a fight? Ask about housework and the division of labor. For that matter, ask what housework means. Does gardening count? How about running a snow blower?

To settle the score, a new study from the University of Michigan examines how the housework burden is shared by women and men. The results: women still do much more than men, though men are getting better (actually, men were getting better until about 1985, and then stalled out). But the real news stood out like a streak of clean glass on a grimy window: nobody really cares that much about housework at all anymore. In 1965 women did 40 hours of housework a week, men a mere 12. Nowadays women are averaging 27 hours; men, closing the gap, average 16. That means housework has decreased even as average house size has ballooned.

None of this comes as a shock to Gale Zemel's 73-year-old mother, Lita. She simply won't visit her daughter--they go to mom's place or meet at a restaurant. "The clutter drives her nuts," said Gale, a 48-year-old office manager in Oak Park, Ill. "And it's true, the place is a mess."

For millions of Americans, it comes down to math. He works. She works. The kids need to be transported all over creation for soccer and piano lessons. People are too pooped to mop. "Who's got time to clean?" says Hiromi Ono, an author of the report by the Institute for Social Research at Ann Arbor, Mich.

Each of the 6,000 people in the study--from the United States and around the world--kept a daily record of the work they did around the house, from sweeping the kitchen floor to changing the oil. As it turned out, American men were much more helpful than Japanese men (four hours a week), but slackers compared to the Swedes (24 hours a week).

When it comes to thankless chores, of course, everyone thinks they're doing too much already and that their other half could be doing just a little bit more. …