Study finds that married women do more housework than single moms because of gender norm pressure

It seems like single mothers would have the short end of the stick when it comes to housework, with no one around to help them and work on top of everything. But women who have children and are married to men actually do more household chores, by about 32 minutes daily, finds a new study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Maryland, and the University of Southern California.

Adjusted for differences in employment, education, race, and number of children or other extended family members at home, married women spend an average of 2.95 hours daily on housework, compared to 2.41 hours for unmarried women. In addition, married mothers spend 10 minutes less daily on leisure activities and get 13 minutes less of sleep. These numbers are consistent whether the married woman works full-time or is a stay-at-home mom.

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Unmarried mothers did the least amount of housework out of all groups – married, cohabiting, divorced. But it was clear that the married women were prioritizing housework over leisure and sleep, said the researchers.

Gender expectations

The reason is gender expectations – married women are more likely to perform gender in their relationships, according to the authors. Part of the role of being a wife, many women have been conditioned to believe, includes providing home-cooked meals, clean-folded clothes, and immaculate houses – and the time making this happen adds up to more housework. Marriage is thus associated with “gendered time use,” meaning the way one chooses to spend their time – on extra housework, for example – is a way one can “do” their gender in the relationship.

And men aren’t helping when they could be. “The research is really showing that men are not necessarily contributing in ways that are bringing about equality in the home,” author Joanna Pepin from the University of Texas told Fortune. The research also shows that having a man in the house adds to the amount of housework a woman has to do.

Women who cohabited with a man spent about the same amount of time on housework and sleep as married mothers, showing that they were facing similar pressure, perhaps housework extras like the expectation of meals cooked from scratch or a doubled laundry duty. “Being in a partnership appears to ratchet up the demands or expectations for housework,” Pepin said.

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