As I was writing out my weekly grocery list while searching the Internet for recipes, I came across a Newsweek “web exclusive.” The article suggested that married men are domestically-challenged slobs who cannot take care of themselves. Well, they didn’t say it in those terms, but on first glance, that’s what I thought. How many times have we been told this over the past 30 years? I cannot tell you how many times I flipped on TV talk shows that bashed men. My first experience with this came years ago when I was a child playing with my Lego sets. My mother had “Donahue” on in the room. His shows constantly told the audience that men are scum. I think the message sunk in with me at that early age when I said, “When I grow up, I need to do my fair share around the house.“ Today, I do an unbelievable amount of the domestic chores — most likely out of my mother’s and Phil Donahue’s guilt trips. I’ll never forget seeing such miserable women crying how much they hated being housewives. So today, when I see a new study that repeats that mantra, I feel that responsible married men throughout the Fruited Plain are taking it on the chin.
The Newsweek article, titled, “Boyfriends Outdo Husbands on Housework” has a twist. It is based on a study that was published in the September Journal of Family Issues. The study found that, “live-in boyfriends spend more time scrubbing and scouring than their married counterparts.” After reading this article, I conjured up images of young, ambitious, romantic, well-toned Zac Ephron-like boyfriends who also operate like Alice on “The Brady Bunch.”
Since it is reported that “live-in boyfriends” are doing more of the housework, their “live-in girlfriends” are taking advantage of their “stud-muffins” and are doing less. This arrangement never looked better to many of these women who are pampered with their home chef/maid/handyman. To top it off, these “live-in couples” are reporting better sex. So this article indirectly begs the question: Why get married? When your Domestic God puts the ring on your finger, he will suddenly turn into Homer Simpson or Al Bundy from “Married with Children.”
OK, perhaps I’m being cynical here, but the findings in this study are making it harder for the married men who are doing their fair share around the house. How much more do they have to prove that they are worthy after their wives and friends read articles like this in Newsweek?
There were many theories bandied about in this study as to why boyfriends outdo their married counterparts. One of the authors suggested that, “self-selection may play a role: those with more liberal, egalitarian views about housework may be more liable to live unmarried with their significant others.”
My suggestion is this: These boyfriends who are sweeping and sautéing, are doing their best to impress their girlfriends. The question here is, “How long do they keep this level of service up?” Also, “Do these men have day jobs?” I would love for the study authors to check in with these guys in a few years.
I have another reason why so many married men are not doing as much as boyfriends. The article said that, “despite rapidly changing gender roles, many men haven’t had much exposure to households where chores are equally divided between husband and wife.” So in these cases, the young brides either did nothing about it by taking on all the household duties are they tried to “train their hubbies,” but they “didn’t get it” in their eyes. So, they jumped on the phone to tell Mommy and their friends that “Joe Six Pack” doesn’t know how to wash a head of lettuce. Thus we have many married male couch potatoes out there who are proud to sit around all weekend swigging Budweiser and chasing it with Chips Ahoy while watching football.
Let’s also not forget the stereotypes. In modern times we have made it OK for men to be useless at home. If a male is responsible at home, then there must be something wrong.
Author Neil Chethik, who wrote “VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think About Their Marriages, Their Wives, Sex, Housework and Commitment,” is featured in the article. He suggested that, “couples should create a clear list of each spouse’s household responsibilities. The payoff can be big for both partners.” Now that makes sense. If more couples commit to a sensible plan like that, then perhaps there is hope for the state of marriage and the division of household labor.