Some years ago, this column crossed a line by daring to comment on the gender wars surrounding the division of labour, specifically concerning housework. It was mildly suggested — and later less-than-mildly contested — that married men do about half the total hours of household tasks of women, but that men tend to approach work differently than women.
In short, it was held that because men view these kinds of things as practical and logical problems to be solved, rather than as a series of duties to be ticked off a list, that certain tasks could be accomplished faster.
Cleaning the bathroom was one example. A spritzer containing four ounces of sudsy ammonia, one ounce rubbing alcohol and four drops of dish soap topped up with water is all the chemistry you need. A lint-free rag, a toilet scrub brush and a green scrubbie makes up a complete toolkit.
Thus armed, a diligent hubby can get the main floor bathroom clean enough for company in less than 10 minutes — and for about a penny in consumables.
Vacuuming the floors could be similarly made more efficient with a little male-oriented advantage with spatial perception.
Well, the reaction at that time — long before online commenting made these things easy — might have made a weaker spirit resolve to stick with safe topics, like tax reform.
But progress never ends, as they say. Recently, a sociologist in the department of family and child studies at Montclair State University in New Jersey studied the work-share habits of no less than 6,877 married couples and found an amazing correlation.
Researcher Constance Gager says she discovered that the more couples share the household tasks — cooking, cleaning, laundry, yardwork — the more sex they got. The results held even when other factors such as health, age and duration of the relationship were discounted.
An online news search on this topic yielded almost a universal headline in North American publications: Household chores more foreplay than work. Either editors are lazy and are just sticking with a good line, or the statement may actually be true.
News reports say the researchers interpret their data to suggest that those who work hard in one sphere may have more energy to put into others.
In fact, the study also revealed that those who spend more hours performing paid work also have sex more frequently.
“Rather than compromise their sex life, this group of go-getters seems to make sex a priority,” said Gager in interviews with U.S. publications.
She also suggests that these hard workers “are on the leading edge of couples we expect to see more of in the future.”
That’s where this study rubs against the current standard of accepted wisdom.
Even Gager’s study concludes men still do a lot less housework than women. On average, husbands still did only slightly above half the hours of their wives on household tasks. There is a corresponding offset on paid labour, though. Men averaged 34 hours a week at their paid job, compared with 20 hours per week for their wives. But add the two spheres together and the average work week for women was still 61 hours, compared with 57 hours for men.
None of this even attempted to quantify the spatial efficiency of a man with a mop, however.
But let it be said, vigour in couplehood is mutual. A healthy sharing of all responsibilities is part of a healthy relationship, which includes a healthy sex life.
Happy couples just don’t look too closely at the corners of the floor, right?
Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.