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Why Am I Doing 7 More Hours of Housework Than My Husband?

Photograph by Twenty20

Last year, women everywhere lost their collective shit over this laundry commercial. The premise: a father realizes he modeled a life for his daughter in which gender norms prevailed. This father watches his son-in-law relax in front of the television as his daughter juggles eleventy-billion things at once. By the end of the commercial, he realizes he should have done better.

He starts helping his own wife with the laundry for the first time ever.

I'll admit, I got a bit misty-eyed myself the first time I saw it. Then I was like, "Dude, what took you so long? What kept you blind to the fact that your own wife was drowning in work and childcare and laundry and cooking while you stretched out on the sofa, one hand on the TV remote, the other in a bag of Cheetos?" I mean, how does a guy miss out on his wife's struggles when he himself is to blame for at least seven of those frantic hours per week?

Maybe I'm projecting. (Or, maybe not.) A study of housework trends, based on 2005 time-diary data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, shows that husbands create an extra seven hours of housework a week. That's an extra hour every day.

Thanks a lot, husbands.

Now I'll be the first to admit (well, maybe the second) that my husband helps out at home. He cleans the dishes every morning. He gives Em her bath. He does the yard work (and then asks me if I noticed that he did the yard work).

But he doesn't understand why I so often feel overwhelmed. He doesn't get how envious I am of the fact that when he is working, he is only working. And when he is not working, he is somehow able to find the time to relax in the back room with at least three hours of TV daily. Him and his bag of Cheetos. While I still haven't managed to finish the last season of "Buffy."

"Get up earlier," he tells me, not understanding how exhausted I am by everything I do every day. Not understanding how much I need that extra hour or two of sleep. Not understanding why I suddenly want to claw out his eyes.

But how long does it take a grown man to learn the same?

"I can watch that much TV because I prioritize it," he says, while I use all of the self-control I have inside of me not to throttle him.

I wonder how many hours of housework my daughter creates. Every time I put away all of her books, place all of her toys into the toy chest, place all of her plates and spoons and cups back into her cupboard, she takes it all out again within 15 minutes. She is a living, breathing tornado.

"Why do you bother?" asks the man who seems to not care about living in the midst of chaos and filth.

I can forgive Em. After all, she is only just learning to clean up after herself.

But how long does it take a grown man to learn the same? And when did he learn that if he waits long enough, his wife will do it?

How many years will it be before my daughter is cleaning up after more than just herself?

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