THE BLOG

We Need Co-CEO Households

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET

Working women let the laundry pile up. That was basically the finding of a recent study on women and housework.

This is not shocking news by any stretch of the imagination but for some reason academics find it's something important to study.

Every one has their eyes focused on working women these days. Every wants to know what they do at home; if they'd rather be home than in the office; if they're kids are turning into budding psychopaths because they're in daycare.

The expectation is that women are the nurturers, the maids, the sacrificers. Who do you think is going out into the snake pit that is the mall this Black Friday? Probably women.

But it's about time that we shifted the big fat spotlight onto the men in this country.

We all want happy and clean homes, and healthier and smarter kids. So we all have to get familiar with the mop.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst professor did the study on housework that found married women who made higher incomes spent less time doing chores around the house. So, for every $7,500 they earned at a full-time job they put in one hour less slaving away at the homestead. And it didn't matter how much money their husband's made.

I asked the author of the study, Sanjiv Gupta, if he looked at how much housework men did relative to their salaries. I sort of figured the answer...no.

"There is comparatively little variation among men in how much time they spend on housework," he says, adding that, "much of this kind of research focuses on women's housework."

Ha! I knew it.

"Also, women spend much more time on it, so in that sense it's more important to look at their housework," he explains.

But he adds, and I'm glad to hear this, "I am planning a follow-up study to look at the relationship between men's housework and their earnings (and their partners' earnings)."

There is no way around it, the bulk of the responsibilities at home tend to fall on the woman. And there are repercussions.

Women tend to have higher rates of depression, and they also have higher absenteeism rates than men, as much as twice as high. And that's the case for women with children and women without children, according to the Department of Labor.

And guess what, married dads tend to call in sick less often than men who don't have children.

Hello! Seems like someone is making their hubby's life a bit too easy.

Anyway, there are definitely couples that share the homemaker responsibilities. The ones I've met that do it right find their strengths in the home and divvy up work along those lines. One does the cooking because they're a closet gourmet; the other does the vacuuming and dusting because they're anal.

These are what I call "co-CEO households".

Yes, two CEOs can make it work. Everyone focusing in on his or her strengths. One CEO handles the operations side, making sure the family is fed, homework is done and everyone has warm clothing for the winter. And the other big cheese is in charge of marketing and the financials, handling the bills, planning date night, and kissing up to the teachers.

It's not a perfect remedy. Nothing is perfect, folks. That's just life. But at least it takes the pressure off of women who have become the prosciutto and cheese between the crusty bread being squeezed harder and harder in that big societal panini press that is kids and aging parents.

Will it ever get better?

Gupta has hope:

"Over the last few decades, men in the U.S. and other western countries have increased their housework, on average. And women have reduced theirs, on average. So the gender gap in housework has narrowed, but remains large."

But, he adds, that recent studies of younger people show "more egalitarian ideas about gender roles than older cohorts. Putting all this together, I'd say society still leans towards seeing housework and child care primarily as women's responsibility, but there is a distinct trend towards greater equality in both attitudes and behavior. Of course it's hard to know when complete equality will be achieved, or even exactly what it would look like."

Something has got to give, or we risk ending up with another generation of suburban women, albeit working women, popping Mommy's Little Helper, aka Valium, and longing to jump in the sack with that guy from Lady Chatterley's Lover.