Recent research found that while more men do housework and childcare than used to in the past, women are continuing to manage the household – even when they are employed.
Researchers from Arizona State University and Oklahoma State University looked at how so-called “invisible labor” was linked to feelings of being overwhelmed and a sense of emptiness in women’s day-to-day lives. Almost nine in 10 women said they felt solely responsible for organizing schedules of the family.
Professor Suniya Luthar, one of the report’s authors, said this is an “extremely large” percentage given the fact 65 percent of the women were employed.
At least seven in 10 women said they were also responsible for other areas of family routines such as maintaining standards for routines and assigning household chores.
A large proportion of the women also felt it was chiefly them who was responsible for monitoring their children’s well-being and emotional states.
Almost eight in 10 said they were the one who knew the children’s school teachers, and two-thirds indicated they were the person who was attentive to the children’s emotional needs.
The invisible labor of ensuring the well-being of children showed “strong, unique links” with women’s distress. Professor Luthar said the category “clearly predicted” feelings of emptiness in the women. It was also associated with low satisfaction levels about life overall and with the marriage or partnership.
“Research in developmental science indicates that mothers are first responders to children’s distress.
“That is a very weighty job; it can be terrifying that you are making decisions, flying solo, that might actually worsen rather than improve things for your children’s happiness.”The study’s findings suggest women who feel overly responsible for household management and parenting are less satisfied with both their lives and partnerships.
Researchers say tasks – such as knowing who needs to be where, on what day and at what time, and buying bigger clothes before a child outgrows their current garbs – necessitate mental and emotional effort.
They argued these tasks are instances of the “invisible labor” women contribute while they are caring for their families.