Too right, women do more work. And we’re so tired.

18th March 2017 10:22 AM
It doesn't matter if they earn the big bucks most Aussie women are still stuck with the dishes. It doesn't matter if they earn the big bucks most Aussie women are still stuck with the dishes. Thinkstock

Every so often an FM radio host puts aside the set-up jokes and naff anecdotes and makes some observation so on the money it cuts through like a scream.

Em Rusciano has delivered one such utterly relatable moment when she called her husband on air and tearily begged him to participate more at home.

It what was no doubt an awkward moment for at least one dude listening, but should have been for the hordes of others who we know from the data are not living in fair households, but so easily could.

She's in a similar situation to a very large number of Australian working mothers... she is the one whose role is assumed to include most of the domestic workload whether she is earning (or in the case of an increasing number of women, earning the lion's share of the income) or not.

According to the long-term study of how Australians live, the Household Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, even in households where women are the main breadwinner they do 21.5 hours of housework a week while their male partner does 17.5 hours.

The hours listed above do not include child care time. In households where women are the main breadwinners, the men on average spend nearly 13 hours a week caring for children, compared with women's 22.5 hours a week caring for children.

In households where men and women earn roughly equal amounts, men do 28.3 hours in housework and childcare, while women do nearly 57 hours. That is more than twice as much.

Housework isn't sexy and neither is complaining, so many women just do it to keep the peace.

Articles on the unfair situation in many Australian homes may be pinned to fridges everywhere but judging by the statistics even if under-delivering men are made aware of the issue they're not motivated to up the contribution.

According to University of Melbourne senior lecturer in sociology, Leah Ruppanner (writing on The Conversation in 2016), "women shoulder the time-intensive and routine tasks such as cooking, laundry and dishes".

"They're also more likely to do the least enjoyable tasks like scrubbing the toilets versus washing the car," she wrote. Men are more likely to do "episodic chores" such as mowing the lawn or changing light bulbs.

And women do more housework than men "even when they are more educated, work fulltime and are more egalitarian". Other research has shown that in same-sex partnerships the domestic chore split is more or less equal; so gender roles in straight couples do come into this.

A quick survey of female colleagues threw up these excuses: "Just tell me what to do and I'll do it" (no woman enjoys giving housework orders), "You just like the house cleaner than I do" (nope, just hygienic and more of less free of pet hair), "I didn't know we were out of toilet paper" (do you think there's a toilet paper fairy?), "I'll help you if you ask me to" (help ME? So you really do think it's my job).

One of the saddest theories around with regards to the niggling question of why this exhausting inequality in many hetero homes remains static (women spend around the same amount of time each week on housework as they did in the 1990s despite the fact many more are working) is that women do it so as not to threaten their man's idea of masculinity.

Ruppanner noted that housework studies consistently confirm "the symbolic gendered value of housework as a way to demonstrate femininity and masculinity in domestic partnerships".

Yet if you ask a guy what he most admires about his partner how likely is it that he would say "the way she cleans the tiles in the shower on Saturdays"?

To give blokes the benefit of the doubt, this issue that leaves so many women tired enough to cry in public (or an air) would appear to be rooted not in individual men's choice to run their wife or girlfriend down, but because they are simply aping what they've seen around them or acting on societal norms.

The fact those norms are so unbalanced is a huge worry for the potential happiness of our kids' future partnerships. Let's do something about it.