For High-Earning Women, Motherhood Can Mean Even More Housework

A recent study shows that new moms who out-earn their husbands get saddled with more housework

Woman holding cleaning supplies
Women are still doing more housework than men, even when they earn more.
Peter Dazeley via Getty

A new study published in the journal Work, Employment and Society has found that even when new mothers out-earn their husbands, they still do more housework. In an interview for The Washington Post, Joanna Syrda, author of the research and professor at the University of Bath School of Management, said that “parenthood seems to have that traditionalizing effect.”

Syrda’s hypothesis is that when women become the higher earner, the gendered effect is that they take on more housework and parenting responsibilities to compensate, or “correct,” in order to be in line with traditional gender norms. She also found that men have very high stress in partnerships “when they are the only breadwinner” but the “lowest when their wife brings in around 40 percent of the household income. Because, importantly, it is less than half.”

It isn’t just in high-earning households either. In households where the husband is unemployed, as noted by The Atlantic, the wife still does a majority of the housework. While mothers biologically spend more time with their children after birth because of breastfeeding, since women entered the workforce more broadly in the 1970s men still have not equitably shared in housework. Some research has shown that some women will lie about their income in order to appeal to their husbands as the primary breadwinner, while other studies have shown that the likelihood of divorce for heterosexual couples where the woman makes more money is 50% higher than partnerships where that is not the case. 

So while women are often heralded for shattering glass ceilings in male-dominated workplaces, the next glass ceiling to shatter is in their own home.

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