Distribution of household chores and family burden: we are making progress but not too much

Co-responsibility at home is a pending issue. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, in 2022 the global equality rate in time dedicated to domestic care tasks was 69.1. In the comparison by country, Spain is slightly above the European average, with a rate of 74.5 in that item.

Considering that full equality would mean a 100 on this index, there is much room for improvement. In the Ibero-American context, this inequality is even greater, and the latest data from the Gender Equality Observatory of America and the Caribbean reflect that women in the region dedicate three times more time daily than men to performing domestic and care tasks. unpaid.

If women mostly assume the planning and carrying out of housework (they are mainly in charge of cleaning, feeding and hygiene, and basic care for minors and dependent elderly people) it is not surprising that these inequalities, observed daily in families, they reproduce among the younger generations.

The traditional gender roles in which we are educated are perpetuated, as Simone de Beauvoir already stated in her famous book The second sex. Although this work was written in the middle of the last century, unfortunately many of his ideas are still valid.

Stereotypes and generalizations

Gender stereotypes, widely implanted in society and culture, are the origin of these distinctions that begin in early childhood and last throughout life. These stereotypes are reflected in beliefs about the ways of being of men and women, which are taken as immutable truths: “Girls are cleaner”, “Men are less careful with things”, “Girls are orderly”, ” Children are brutes”, etc.

By mistakenly considering that these qualities are of natural origin, it is assumed that it is impossible to modify them and instill in boys the same love for order and cleanliness that girls have. Expectations and demands change depending on sex, and this influences the education received in the family environment and the results of the process.

Unprepared adult men

When they come of age, these differences begin to take their toll. They, having not been trained in basic actions such as cooking or cleaning, are less qualified to live emancipated. They are more dependent, they need someone to do these tasks for them, and in the best of cases they learn to do them late.

Girls have had this learning, which gives them a certain advantage when it comes to becoming independent because they are used to managing the domestic environment, although this perpetuates gender inequalities because it is assumed that they have to take care of these aspects to a greater extent. than other male family members.

Life as a couple

The biggest problems arise when these young people pair up and start living together. They have never had responsibilities at home. They don’t cook, they don’t know how to clean the bathroom or when it’s time to change the sheets. They know how to do these tasks, so the easy option is for them to be in charge of carrying them out.

Time passes. Sons and daughters arrive and the domestic burden increases. But the custom has already been established that the woman manages the house, and at that point it is difficult to redistribute responsibilities and get the man to collaborate in tasks that he has never performed.

A recent study on co-responsibility indicates that women take care of feeding and cleaning the home, and men take care of car maintenance and DIY. Although these data refer to the region of La Rioja, their results can be extrapolated to the entire society.

Generational change

An encouraging finding is that young men are more involved in caring for sons and daughters than those of previous generations.

New models of masculinity and responsible fatherhood are beginning to permeate citizens. We are still far from full co-responsibility, but little by little we are moving towards it.

To continue reducing the gender gap in domestic and care tasks, the two essential areas of action are the home and school.

The home is the first area of ​​learning and socialization. That is why it is important to encourage families to be environments of equity and co-responsibility, where boys and girls observe a fair distribution of domestic tasks and learn to perform them equally.

The coeducational school is another important space, and its effectiveness increases at an early age. As the Greek philosopher Aristotle said, human beings learn by imitation. Gender equality is also internalized in this way: by daily witnessing gestures and acts that exemplify that equality.

Public politics

In addition to addressing these issues from childhood to promote future generations to be more co-responsible, we must not neglect the rest of the population. Public policies have a prominent role in this sense, promoting measures to lighten the female domestic burden and increase male involvement in the home.

Full co-responsibility will only be achieved when traditional gender stereotypes are overcome and it is considered normal for domestic and care tasks to be shared, and for them to be done by a man or a woman without distinction. If all people mess, it is not fair that women always clean.

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