Multitasking and Working Moms

4 Dec

NPR ran a story this week about working moms & multitasking.  The American Sociological Review published a study this month, in which 368 mothers and 241 fathers were interviewed about multitasking.  The findings of the study were that working mothers spend more time multitasking at home than working fathers, and that working mothers are more stressed about that multitasking time than working fathers.  The researcher who conducted the study ultimately concluded that employers should be more flexible with working fathers, so that fathers can spend more time assisting with household chores.  In turn, this would presumably lower the burden of chores on working mothers.

As usual, this kind of story makes me unnecessarily defensive.  Yes, workplace flexibility is lacking in many industries and companies.  The more immediate solution I see, though, is divide the chores more equitably. All the working moms I know do not carry sole responsibility for household chores.  In a two-adult, two-career household, the house is run as a partnership. (Note– in a single parent family, I understand that this is just not a possibility…but the study appears to be about two-adult households.)  Both adults (and the kids once they are old enough) are responsible for pitching in and doing the chores.  I have working mom friends who have had to prod their husbands to get them moving on certain household chores, which can be annoying, but the husbands ultimately do the chores. Admittedly, sometimes Mr. Beez has to prod me to get me to do my chores (out of clean socks, again?).  In my experience, none of us are coming home from work and running the whole household.

I’m pretty proud about how we divide chores in our house.  I’m responsible for getting Baby Beez ready in the morning and getting her to daycare, and feeding the birds and changing their toys.  I’m also responsible for cooking (dinner only, which is often veggie burgers or soup or something simple) and laundry.  Mr. Beez is responsible for picking Baby Beez up from daycare in the afternoon, feeding her dinner, doing all the dishes, cleaning the bird cages (yuck), taking out the garbage,  and cleaning the house.

Who are these women who are coming home from work, and feeling like they are “clocking in” for a whole new shift?  Why aren’t they speaking up at home and distributing the chores?  I worry that in prodding these issues, I’m “mommy-blaming,” but it worries me that this study suggests that as far as women have come in the working world, they are not accepting that changes in the working world mean changes in the home world too, and are instead just accepting all of the responsibilities being piled on themselves.  What are the circumstances that make women think it’s ok for them to be responsible for all the household duties?

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5 Responses to “Multitasking and Working Moms”

  1. soniabgill December 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    I love this entry and this topic. On my end, we both have full-time work, and the only way the house keeps standing is because we divide and conquer all the household and parenting responsibilities. Even so, I do feel like maybe 60% falls on me, and not by choice: it’s attention to the details my husband overlooks, either by his own choice or because he never saw them. I don’t think this has anything to do with our genders but our personalities: I’m a perfectionist, and for me, the details always matter, so I’ll fret about the extra things around the house that need to be done and do them, and when I bring them to his attention, he challenges me to explain why it ever mattered 🙂

    I’m curious about couples when the woman has a more demanding job. (Apparently none existed in the NPR study.) When that’s the case, should the housework be divided evenly? See, I don’t think so. That’s when I think the partner with the less demanding job should do MORE at home. Will employers offer more workplace flexibility for women? Or is the article suggesting that is already happening and it’s time to pay attention to helping men be able to be more active parents?

    Like you, I wonder about these women, although I don’t think it’s because they aren’t asking for more help: I think it’s because many of us actually hold onto some ideal that we should be EVERYTHING, some kind of superwoman who can do it all, and THAT WE WILL BE MEASURED BY THAT, by our ability to do it all, and perfectly, at that. I think, also, we have a generation in front of us clinging to old ideals, that a woman’s first priority needs to be her home, and I’ll be honest: sometimes that influences my thoughts about this. My father (72 years old), for example, continues to ask when my husband is going to look for a promotion so that I can stay at home… with my 17 year old daughter. Even though my logic replies, What would I do all day?? That’s boring!, a small part of my brain sometimes thinks, Hmm, good idea, Dad. BECAUSE THAT SURE WOULD BE SIMPLER THAN THIS WORKING MOTHER GIG I’ve been trying to pull off for 17 years!

    🙂

    Great entry. I hope you get a lot of comments on this topic which deserves discussion.

    • beezuskiddo December 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

      Thanks, Sonia!

      You make a good point– it would be interesting to see what kind of jobs the interviewees had, and how demanding those jobs are. The situation is definitely different in a household where the parents get to clock out at 5, than it is in my house where, if I’m in trial, everything else in the world MUST go on the back burner for me, or if there’s some server catastrophe, everything else in the world MUST go on the back burner for Mr. Beez. (Luckily, these kinds of times have not happened simultaneously for Mr. Beez and I…yet…I’m sure it will happen someday). So, in part because of necessity, I think that it’s easier for me to shelf the domestic goddess ideal than it would be for, say, a mom who works as a teacher or nurse.

      I also agree with your point about overlooking things being a function of personality, not gender…Mr. Beez is a perfectionist and clean freak, and he NOTICES when I’ve let Baby Beez smash goldfish crackers all over the floor…I, however, am not as much of a perfectionist, and am less fazed by such things.

  2. Nikki December 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    Me!
    I work a low paying part time job that sucks most of my time and energy. I work about 40 hours per week. I took this job to supplement our income, have reduced childcare for our kids and to be able to spend time with them which also not going nuts inside my home all day long. I tend to be a hermit if I’m not working.

    I am responsible for getting the kids up, fed and ready for the day. I also arrange their schedules. I put Madilyn on the bus 2 days per week (one of those is so that I can put the garbage can away and put the milk in on Thursday). Nate goes with me everyday. I do all Nate’s preschool things (conferences, etc.). I make all arrangements afterschool and get Madilyn off the bus 3 days per week and pick her up at the afterschool program two days per week (which puts my commute on those days at one and a half hours). I make dinner 5 days per week, do all laundry, and do all basic cleaning. I also get the kids ready for bed every night. During the week, I basically run the house solo.

    Justin works a high paying, very full time job which is an hour and a half commute (he’s in Plum everyday) one way. He works about a million hours per week. Justin is only responsible for getting up, getting himself ready and taking Madilyn to his Aunt’s house to get on the bus 3 days per week. He helps where he can but generally hinders a bit more since I have a specific routine. He is gone from around 6am to after 7 every night. After work, he spends anytime he can with the kids, eats the dinner I made that he didn’t get to eat with us and logs on to do more work. We watch any TV we can squeeze in and are in bed by 9pm. He has only work responsibilities unless I assign him something during the week.

    On the weekends, he is responsible for all car maintenance, house maintenance including heating and yard work. He does dishes on weekends if he has time. He cooks breakfast and changes the cat litter if I didn’t have time for it during the week. Basically, he has no free time because he is also working on the weekends from home. I am hoping that this will calm down for him soon once another person gets trained. Since he has been away so much, I have been doing the grocery shopping ALONE during the weekend and he is keeping the kids and spending time with them. He’s not good at multitasking at all.

    We are struggling with his job schedule and I fear that he is jealous of the time that I get to spend with the kids at this point. I am a working mom but my job is expendable and is one that I plan to quit when the time is right (I hope it’s soon!) I still haven’t figured out what I want to do with my life and I am feeling overwhelmed with the time restraints that I have with Madilyn being in school an hour from where I work. I have to leave work by 2:30 to get her off the bus and I have to leave by 5:00 to get her picked up from school. A large chunk of my day is spent driving.

    • beezuskiddo December 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

      Holy wow, that’s a lot of driving. It does make sense that when he’s driving and working a million hours a week, and is the primary breadwinner, that he wouldn’t be doing as many chores.
      Has he always been working that far away? Do you plan to move closer to his job?

      • Nikki December 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

        He’s been almost in Pittsburgh for almost two years (one year with one company and from Jan. until present with his current company). So far there are no plans to move closer although we have talked about it. I am hoping that he will be able to talk his company into allowing him to work from home a day or two per week to give him some time back. It’s totally possible since he does it every weekend and on days off.

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