Last Call: The great housework divide

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Woman sweeping pathway through piles of laundry
Photo: Ryan McVay (Getty Images)

Last week, BuzzFeed News published a great story about how the pandemic, by forcing millions of Americans to collapse their business and personal lives into a single mode of operation, has reinforced the old gender norms: women are stuck with more childcare and housework duties than men, even if both partners are working full-time and each of their jobs has been uninterrupted by the quarantine.

There’s also just more work that needs to be done, now that everyone’s at home messing up their kitchens and living rooms all day. (Haven’t we talked your ear off about dishes already?) And that’s to say nothing of childcare, which has been the biggest difficulty for working parents during the pandemic and has continued to be shouldered mostly by women. One sociology professor explained it to BuzzFeed News reporter Elamin Abdelmahmoud this way: “I don’t think it’s that fathers are trying to skirt their labor. It’s not out of malice. It’s the cumulative effect of a lot of small interactions.”

Not only is it just plain stressful to be the person saddled with the bulk of the cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing—it also reinforces the notion that a woman’s career (and, hell, her ability to have any time to herself) ultimately comes second to the role that society believes she “signed up for.” The BuzzFeed News article, well worth a read, concludes that these imbalances can’t be wished away; instead, they need to be tackled proactively and repeatedly by everyone in the family until the ingrained behaviors have changed.

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Does any of this sound painfully familiar to those of you out there quarantining with a partner and/or a family? Have you experienced an imbalance of housework either now or in the past, and if so, have you come up with good ways of restoring household equilibrium?