Who does most of the “chores” in your house? I am a big fan of family economist Emily Oster’s work and recently she shared a study from the Pew Research Center on the Division of Labor in Marriages. Heterosexual, married couples were divided into 5 groups:
- Egalitarian (where husband and wife earn a similar salary)
- Relationships where the husband was the primary earner
- Relationships where the husband was the sole earner
- Relationships where the wife was the primary earner
- Relationships where the wife was the sole earner
The results were grim (and, possibly, exactly what you would expect). With the exception of marriages in which the woman was the sole income earner, wives consistently bore a disproportionate share of caregiving and household duties.
So, how does your household stack up?
In mine, my husband outearns me. Though we both have advanced degrees, he works in a typically higher-earning field. I think in most “egalitarian” minded couples, the approach tends to be a 50-50 split of labor. At face value, this sounds great! We each do half the work – it is balanced and respectful of our careers outside the home. But in reality, if I’m looking around my house thinking, “Ok, I am going to do half of what needs done,” this practice encourages competition and contempt rather than compassion.
So let me introduce you to the 80-80 method. Pioneered by husband and wife team, Nate and Kaley Klemp, the 80-80 method is a radical approach to dividing labor allowing for grace for both partners. If both partners approach household and parent-related chores with a mindset of, “I’m going to do 80% of the work here,” then you’re setting a standard of grace to your partner, and also to yourself. I know there are times when I just can’t put in 50% of the work (or even 25% sometimes), but with the 80-80 split, I know I have coverage when I need it most.
Is it a perfect system? No.
Are there days when I still feel like I am doing all the things? Well, yeah, sometimes – but not often! And I am more mindful of all the times my husband picks up the balls I drop. If you’re feeling stuck or drowning in chores, maybe give it a try and see if this way of thinking works for you and your household.