Sharing Chores with Your Partner / Spouse: “Exchange,” or “Communal”?

The way you divide household chores with your partner can have a big impact on your career, or your aspirational goals.  And the ratio of male-to-female share may vary, but, worldwide, studies show women do the lion’s share of the housework.  Shocking, huh?

In a post on Psychology Today, Psychology professor Genn Geher has explored the concept of “communal” versus “exchange” behaviors/attitudes in sharing housework.  In the exchange version, an eye is kept on fairness and equality of time spent.  A spouse with a communal approach, however, focuses on keeping the family happy and working for the greater good.  Which is better?

While the communal approach may appear on the surface to be more beneficial to all, it is in fact typically unfair, in a far-reaching manner, to women.  (Women are the more likely of the pair to have the communal attitude, and, again, do more housework.)   American women on average, do 1½ hours per day “extra”, seven days per week (totalling 10½ per week).

Women still earn less in the workplace.  But if they were actually paid, at the rate of $26.82, for all the extra hours of housework they do (i.e., beyond what their male counterparts do at home) this would actually close the gender gap in terms of overall yearly earnings for Americans.  ( did the math.  Women would earn $292.34 more per week, or $15,201.68 per year, for their extra work at home.)

Imagine you had an assistant who, for 10½ hours per week, did the most tedious work of your job—for free.  Wouldn’t that free you up to better achieve your real creativity? Pursue goals?  Go further in your career?  Thinking about Professor Geher’s “exchange” versus “communal” approaches in this way can make the “exchange” version offers perspective in the worldwide problem of gender disparity, power, and achievement.  

For Minda Zetlin’s complete article, click here: