Work Life Balance

Thanks Sherlock: Wives’ Stress Levels Decrease When Husbands Help With Housework

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Science just confirmed what you already know. When your hubby helps out a little around the house with chores and childcare, you don’t have the anxious feeling that you’re alone on a sinking ship. Some researchers over at UCLA measured stress hormones in 30 dual-earner couples with two or more kids. Most of these couples had been married about 13 years but it would seem that childcare duties had not been hammered out in a way that is fair to both partners. Interestingly, while women showed decreased cortisol levels at their husbands helping out, men showed about the same when their wives did all the work.

USA Today reports:

For both sexes, doing more housework kept cortisol levels higher at the end of the day. But for women, healthier cortisol levels resulted when their husbands spent more time pitching in on housework. For husbands, more leisure time was linked with healthier cortisol when their wives spent more time doing house-related work and less time in leisure.

I’d probably have lower stress levels too if when I came home from my job, I had a maid, a nanny, and a cook all waiting for me. Meanwhile, full-time working mommy has to put her briefcase down, change a couple of diapers, and get to work on dinner too.

Anthropologist Elinor Ochs observed that even when both Mom and Dad are in the house, they assume different tasks:

Men, when they come back home, tend to be alone in a room. Women, when get back home, tend to be with one or more children doing childcare. When they are alone, they tend to be doing housework. When men are alone, they tend to be relaxing.

Another researcher commented that because most homes tend to follow this pattern, mommies not asking for help is another prominent factor. Many mothers, despite having a full-time job, assume all the household duties in addition to their careers — an arrangement that really makes being a husband a cushy role.

Scott Coltrane, a sociologist at the University of Oregon in Eugene, notes that:

When men get married, they do less housework and women do more…There’s something about couples when we expect a gendered division of labor that still works to the advantage of men.