Married Women Do More Housework Than Single Moms, Study Finds

If there are two adults in the household, housework should be shared, right? According to a new study, that’s not happening in most homes.

By: Amanda Mushro


Photo by: Hill Street Studios

Hill Street Studios

For moms, it can often seem like your job is never done. Even when your kids are in bed, you realize those dishes in the sink aren’t going to clean themselves, and that growing laundry pile won’t magically get washed, folded and put away. So, when a new study looked at how much time married moms and single moms spend on housework, you might think the married mom would have less to do because she has a partner around to share the workload. Turns out, that’s not happening in most American homes.

A recent study by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that married mothers or mothers who live with a male partner do more of the household chores like cooking, cleaning and laundry than single mothers who live without a partner. The study also found that married moms are giving up sleep and “me time” to fit in all of these chores.

While the study found that both married moms and single moms spend an equal amount of time caring for their children on average, there’s a disconnect between moms and their male partners when it comes to chores around the house.

“The idea that a mother does more housework when she has a partner or spouse may sound counterintuitive, but it’s the reality in most American households,” said Linda Jacobsen, vice president of U.S. Programs at Population Reference Bureau. “What we don’t know is why mothers feel compelled to do more housework when there’s a man in the house.”

So, why are so many married moms feeling the pressure to take on most of the household chores when they have a partner around to help? Researchers feel it all comes down to gender stereotypes and societal pressure.

“Married women may feel that to be a good wife, they must prioritize housework and child care ahead of their own leisure and sleep,” said Joanna Pepin of the University of Texas at Austin, who co-authored the study. “These expectations likely stem from society’s collective assumptions of what it means to be a wife and mother.”

“When the at-home parent is the mother, there’s a clear expectation that she’ll be in charge of the family’s domestic life,” said study co-author, Noelle Chesley. “That’s not necessarily the case when the at-home parent is the father.”

While stay-at-home dads are on the rise, research shows that they don’t feel the same societal pressure to make home-cooked meals and to keep a tidy home.

“Women feel socially accountable for the appearance of the household,” said study co-author Sarah Flood.

Moms have long felt that they take on the brunt of household chores, and now they have the research to back up those suspicions. This study is not only a great way to open a dialogue with your partner about helping around the house, but also something for moms to consider when examining their priorities. Sure, a clean home looks great and makes you feel good, too, but it’s important to prioritize down time for yourself, Mom. The dishes can wait, and that laundry will be there tomorrow—unless of course you have that conversation with your partner about taking on a fairer share of the housework, which we highly recommend.

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