Time to change paradoxes

Most couples don’t negotiate over division of household chores
By Olga Pimenova

Belarusian mothers often balance work and family responsibilities, as notes the Chairman of the Young Women’s Christian Association NGO, Candidate of Social Sciences Olga Yanchuk. The sociologist is also a teaching assistant at the Department of Economics and Sociology of Labour, at the Belarusian State Economic University.

According to Ms. Yanchuk, most new wives are eager to show their abilities in running the home, despite also working, which sets a precedent for the marriage. Later requests for assistance then fail to be taken seriously by husbands. The situation is exacerbated by mothers taking up to three years maternity leave, since they certainly take over all household chores while at home; on finally returning to work, it’s rare for any redistribution of duties to occur.

Researchers at the University of Bamberg (Germany) estimate that, on first living together, 40 percent of couples enjoy equal division of household duties. After 14 years of marriage, husbands tend to cover just 14 percent. Their wives are partly ‘to blame’ for failing to trust their menfolk with certain chores while the absence of any negotiation leaves the issue undiscussed.

In Britain, it’s estimated that women spend around three hours a week on chores which their partners are supposed to have already completed, undermining their menfolk’s confidence; this invariably leads to men giving up certain jobs in the home. The vast majority of partners don’t negotiate over the division of household duties: even couples who are active supporters of gender equality. However, Ms. Yanchuk notes that negotiations are vital. She explains, “You should negotiate all work and family plans for the day with your husband, discussing what can be shared and what can be done together. This should allow husband and wife to appreciate the kinds of work done by each, helping them not only to share responsibility but to appreciate each other’s contribution.”

She adds, “It’s good to be able to rely on relatives for help where needed, such as for childcare, but you shouldn’t take such help for granted. Show appreciation and don’t take advantage of their kindness. As for colleagues, discuss work rules early on, including hours, and make sure that you follow these strictly, without shifting your duties onto others. If there is a home situation conflicting with your presence at work, try to find someone to cover you at home before letting down colleagues. Above all, be realistic about your ability to work.”
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