I checked out an article on one of my favorite sites, The Good Men Project. The title of the piece was Study: Men Who Help Around The House Are Happier. While I hate that title almost as much as I hate it when people ask me if I am babysitting my daughter*, I was curious about the study. In the original report in The Telegraph, the explanation is as follows:
"A study of men across seven countries found that those who shouldered a bigger share of domestic responsibilities had a better sense of wellbeing and enjoyed a better work-life balance. But experts suggested that, while this may be partly because they felt less guilty, the main reason could be that they had simply learnt the secret of a quiet life."I don't think it is a surprise that men who pull their own weight around the house are happier. Even though the study says that there is no evidence that their wives are happier, the men may perceive that their wives are happier when they do their fair share, and I think that goes a long way for guys. We like to make the people we love happy. I know that brings me joy.
Another site that I frequently read, Role Reversal, featured a response to an article in The Atlantic titled "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" (meaning a successful career and a happy home life or work-life balance). The author argues that men are largely responsible for women's inability to achieve a work-life balance. Men are still "using their own fathers as the standard", and that just doesn't work anymore. They need to look at their domestic partner and ask, "Am I carrying an equal load compared to her?" I tend to agree. When I was the breadwinner in my home, I put in long hours and left most of the domestic work for my wife. Sure, I still mowed the grass and tended the garden, but I would easily ignore the dishes and laundry because she was at home. I could have helped more, and I should have helped more. I would feel guilty while I was at work because I knew how hard she was working taking care of our newborn and keeping up with the regular household duties.
When I started staying home with our daughter, I quickly realized that the domestic duties were now mine. Thank God I love to cook! I do most of the dishes, and I do most of the laundry. The only thing I haven't mastered is the real tough cleaning, but I'm working on that too. My wife works two jobs so that we can make this arrangement work, and in order for her not to burn out, I need to do the housework. When she is able to come home and just relax, that makes me happy because I helped create that environment for her. Does my wife still do a lot around the house? Absolutely. Does she still pick up where I am lacking? Yup. Do I check out when she gets home? That's called partnership.
In a great response to the "Having It All" article, Jeremy Adam Smith reminds us that if we "want it all" we should try to show some gratitude. And it works both ways. Working partners should regularly thank their partners for all the things that get done while they are at work. At-home partners should thank their bread-winning partners for all that they do around the house as well. Gratitude is one of the leading factors in marital happiness. I thank my wife all the time for how hard she works, and for how she picks up where I am lacking. She thanks me for the great meals that I cook and how well I take care of our daughter. It works both ways.
So, men, now that you know what is truly going to make you happy - carrying your fair share of the load and thanking your partner for all that she does - what are you going to do differently? What are you going to try to work on? How can you balance the division of labor in your home? Do you need to make any changes? I know I have work to do. But I am thankful that my wife is patient with me. I think I need to go tell her that again.
*Personally, I don't think women should be asking their men to "help" around the house. Isn't it their home too? Aren't they half of the partnership? Shouldn't at least half of the domestic responsibility be theirs? When you ask them to "help" you are really allowing him to think that domestic work is women's work, and that he can be a hero by "helping" you get it all done. Start expecting more from him. Let him participate in any way he can. Don't beat him up when he gets it wrong the first time - he's learning something new. Encourage the positive behavior that you want to see from him. It will go a lot further than nagging. Plus, when he works around his own home, he can help break down the aging stereotype that "domestic work is for women" by teaching his children about partnership.