top of page
  • Writer's pictureDonné Restom

Is parenting a woman's responsibility?

A new twenty year study blows the lid off of what we have assumed is parental "equality".

This article originally appeared on Kidspot.

Neer Korn has been tracking the thoughts and opinions of mothers with children under six for the past 20 years. When he began the study, what he expected to see was some signs of equality coming forward, workplaces adapting to accommodate women, and mums having an easier lot of things as time developed. But surprisingly, Korn says that hasn't been the case.

"Essentially, whilst women have changed their roles, society has not come to the party to make it any easier for them," he says.

Those who are working still have to do household duties as well, while feeling that they have to work to a higher standard than their male colleagues and their colleagues that don’t have kids.

"So they’ve got to do the work at home and they’ve got to do the work in the workplace and it’s relentless. There’s nobody to equally hand it down to," Korn explains.

So what do mums do? They talk about a sense of exhaustion and the relentlessness of it.

Ultimately though, this study showed that while men are participating more in the child-rearing area, ultimately the majority of the responsibility still comes down to women.

"While men know to help when there’s something needed to be done and they’re told to do so, women have a constant spreadsheet going on in their heads," Korn says.

One mother in the study expresses this perfectly: "I know which notices have to go back to school and when, I know when the stir fry cooking class is coming up at school and which dress up day it is next week because two a term isn't enough, we have to have a third, I just know all these things."

“He does the vacuuming and mopping..." says another. "He does it but he makes a big deal of it like, 'I just vacuumed and mopped' - lets everyone know, kind of thing.”

Why are all these things still the responsibility of the woman?

“I’m very lucky with that, he’ll cook, he’ll clean – I do most of the cleaning but he will help with the cleaning and he’s very good with the kids and he steps in, especially when he gets home.”

This comment made by one of the mothers in the study, is interesting in that the husband is referred to as someone who "steps in", someone who "helps" with domestic duties. So while, this mother seems content with her situation, it's far from equal.

Not surprisingly, Korn says the women who were in a true 50/50 partnership were the happiest and most content of all.

It's just unfortunate that equal division is so very rare.

"I think society has yet to evolve and maybe we’re resting on our laurels too much about it," he ponders. "Maybe we haven’t advanced that cause further because I would have thought that by the time we got to 2016 we would have seen greater equality."

Is it possible then, that we are just wired too differently to find a balance?

The perception that men are "just different" was a common one for the mothers in the study. One mother explained it like this:

“I thought it was a personality thing and my mum told me that I would drive myself nuts if I got upset every time he forgot something, she thinks men just think different and they see more what's in front of them whereas I'm busy looking at what's going on over here and here.”

But Korn thinks this is not exactly accurate.

"The men have got it good," he says. "They've got it relatively easy because they can play as much of a role as they wish to but they don’t have to take on that responsibility, purely because the women already have."

"It’s kind of a catch 22," he explains. "Because the more responsibility the women take, the more lax men can be. And the more lax that men are, the more hard-line women have to become in order to give their children what what feel they need."

So what's the answer then? How do we make the division of work, childcare and domestic duties more equal?

Well, you're not going to like the answer (ok, I didn't like the answer), but it's apparently up to us to do less. To lower our expectations and let ourselves be a bit more sh*t.

That, or get a live-in servant.


bottom of page