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It’s time to put an end to the ‘chore wars’

It’s time to put an end to the ‘chore wars’

by Ashley McGuire | May 20, 2019

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Will the “chore wars” ever die? Clinical psychologist Darcy Lockman’s recent New York Times article, “What ‘Good’ Dads Get Away With,” suggests they are with us for the foreseeable future. 

She calls the domestic division of labor “one of the most important equity issues of our time,” and then spends nearly 1500 words lamenting that men don’t do their fair share. The article opens with Lockman accusing her own husband of sexism and then reciting a litany of male excuses as to why they don’t do more laundry or pack more lunches. But it isn’t just that men are lazy, she says, it’s that they are collectively part of “largely successful male resistance.”

As a wife and mother who is a generation behind her and deep in the trenches of parenting three young children, I find the liberal feminist obsession with chores to be dated and tired. Perhaps this is easy enough for me to say, as my husband will happily vacuum and Windex after a 75-hour work week. But in my home, I do the overwhelming majority of childcare and home management, and I have zero issues with it.

Why? Because it’s my choice

What Lockman overlooks, like so many feminists who complain about wage gaps and domestic disparities, is the reality that most men and women want very different things from life, and those differences are magnified substantially when young children are at home. Pew has consistently found that the majority of women with children under the age of 18 would prefer to work part-time or not at all. Just one-in-three moms want a full-time job. Those women want to be the primary caregivers for their children and are happy when they can prioritize what they do at home. It’s a cold, hard fact that for some reason, feminists like Lockman just cannot accept.

Today’s young couples are finding arrangements that work for their families, not the preconceived notions of what constitutes gender equity according to yesteryear’s feminists.  

Does that mean those women don’t think their husbands should help with childcare and housework? Of course not. But Lockman also fails to acknowledge how much more involved men are today than ever before. Since the 1960s, the average mom has seen the time she spends on housework nearly cut in half, while the average dad has more than doubled his weekly hours on chores. Moms have seen a 4-hour increase in the amount of time they spend on childcare per week, whereas dads have increased their time on childcare by 5.5 hours. And while the number of hours of paid work that moms perform has more than doubled since the 1960s, men have actually seen a slight drop in paid hours.

“The optimistic tale of the modern, involved dad has been greatly exaggerated,” Lockman writes. But has it?

Today’s dads are demanding changing tables in public restrooms and can be seen wearing their babies in carriers in public, something that would have been unthinkable decades ago. Perhaps the biggest pitfall of Lockman’s take is her failure to adequately recognize and praise men for the major strides they have taken to be more involved at home and with their children than perhaps ever before in history. Does Lockman really think that berating men helps the cause of gender equity? And as a psychologist, shouldn’t she know that belittling men gets you nowhere with them?  

The chore wars seem particularly retro in light of my generation, which is trending more traditional in terms of the division of labor. Millennial moms are more likely to stay home with their children than Gen X moms, and Millennials overall are significantly more likely than the previous generation to agree that the male-breadwinner model is the ideal arrangement, though it’s worth noting that the rate of stay-at-home fathers is also at an all-time high among Millennials. I would posit that the reason Millennials swing toward more traditional home arrangements is simple: women have now been given opportunity, and we are free to choose what works best for our families and ourselves.

No need to call Betty Friedan: we are just fine.

Or as Forbes writer Sarah Landrum, also a Millennial, put it: "Millennial women are an empowered generation, yet they’re more traditional than you’d think. As they raise children, millennial women reclaim what it means to be a stay-at-home mom..." 

Millennials increasingly understand something Lockman’s generation can’t seem to process: namely, that the work we do at home is no less valuable than the work we do outside the home. And so, today’s young couples are finding arrangements that work for their families, not the preconceived notions of what constitutes gender equity according to yesteryear’s feminists.  

Perhaps, then, it is the job of my generation to form a “largely successful resistance” to the chore wars. 

Ashley E. McGuire is a Contributing Editor at the Institute for Family Studies. Her new book is Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female (Regnery, 2017). Republished with permission from the Institute for Family Studies blog.

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