Think that most couples can (and should) equally share diaper duty? A new study released by researchers at Ohio State University shows that we still have a long way to go.
The study asked 182 different-sex couples to fill out "time diaries" that recorded their daily activities on workdays and non-workdays. The couples first kept these diaries during the third trimester of pregnancy, and also spoke with researchers about how they expected to divide household chores. The responses were overwhelmingly optimistic.
"Before the babies were born, most couples had achieved a balanced division of labor," wrote researcher Claire Kamp Dush in a brief report, citing an average of 15 weekly hours of housework and between 42 and 45 hours of paid work for both men and women. Dush added that "more than 95 percent" of the couples agreed that they should continue to equally share household and child care duties.
Nine months later, the Ohio State University team saw a very different story. Again, the couples kept time diaries and spoke to researchers, but this time their perceptions were off. Both women and men overestimated how much time they spent on housework and child care and underestimated how much time they put in at work. Moms thought they did 28 hours of child care and 27 hours of housework; in reality, they did 15.5 hours and 13.5 hours, respectively. Dads' estimates were even more off: they reported 15 hours of child care and 35 hours of housework, but the real figures were only 10 and nine (seriously!).
Overall, women's workloads overwhelmingly increased compared to their partners'; new moms worked an average of 22 extra hours a week, while men added 14 hours. The only area in which men outworked women was in paid work — a dangerous trend, Dush warned. When new moms feel compelled to "opt out" of working, they may be stuck with fewer career opportunities, while working dads get even less time to bond with baby.
The solution? Dush urges new couples to see parenthood as a "magic moment" that should be split evenly between mom and dad. Addressing inequalities early on will keep them from becoming a norm, and result in "more satisfying relationships" all around, she wrote.