Women spend about double the amount of time on chores than men do: Study

A study in The Lancet says the extra work can impact women's mental health more.

October 5, 2022, 9:00 PM

Women are more likely to spend double the amount of time than men caregiving, tackling chores and doing housework -- all tasks that can lead to a greater impact on mental health and even burnout, according to a new study in the medical journal The Lancet Public Health.

Researchers analyzed data from 19 studies which included data from over 70,000 individuals around the world for study. They found women in the U.S. spend about four-and-a-half hours per day caring for their families and homes while men spend about 2.8 hours a day on the same or similar tasks.

All the household work and caregiving -- typically unpaid and "invisible" labor -- can in turn take a major toll on women's mental health.

For Tessa Kerley, a mom of two, the caregiving and housework work begins first thing in the mornings, before she leaves home for work as a full-time teacher.

Tessa Kerley is a mom of two kids who also works as a full-time teacher.
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"My husband has already left for work, so it is me getting two kids out the door," Kerley told "Good Morning America" in a video message.

"I'm leaving my house a mess. But it's one of those things that it will just stay that way until I get home," she said.

Katie Clark, also a mom to two kids, says getting her family out the door in the mornings can be a challenge.

Katie Clark is a working mother of two children.
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"Me and my husband have a really good routine down. We both wake up with the kids," Clark told "GMA." "Today, I'm going to be dropping the boys off at school because my husband has to go into the office, so I'll drop them off at day care and then I have to get on my way and get to work."

Jennifer Esguerra is also a working mom and has three children. Sometimes, Esguerra has to travel for work and she told "GMA" juggling it all can be stressful.

"I was up at 4 a.m. yesterday morning to be on a 5:55 a.m. flight and now I'm back at the airport trying to get home to my 6-month-old, 3-year-old and 5-year-old, and my flight was canceled," Esguerra explained in a recent video message. "Being a working mom isn't easy."

Eve Rodsky, the bestselling author of "Fair Play" and a mom herself, says the type of unpaid labor women take on can be a factor in women's mental health as much as the amount of time is spent doing it.

Eve Rodsky is the author of "Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live)," published in 2019.
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"Men hold cards that they can do at their own timetable, like mowing the lawn, whereas women are the ones still, to this day, responsible for tasks like meal planning, responsible for grocery shopping and responsible for things like going to get their children when they're sick, if a school calls," Rodsky said.

After speaking with moms during the pandemic, Rodsky came up with a list of the top chores she said negatively affect mothers' mental health the most.

PHOTO: A list of the dirty dozen tasks that can affect mental health for mothers.
Author Eve Rodsky identified twelve chores that working mothers told her they do often and which she says can negatively impact mothers' mental health.
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The Dirty Dozen Tasks Affecting Moms' Mental Health

  1. Laundry
  2. Groceries
  3. Meals
  4. Home Supplies
  5. Tidying Up
  6. Cleaning Dishes
  7. Garbage
  8. Discipline
  9. Screen Time
  10. Homework
  11. Watching the Kids
  12. Managing Social Interactions

There are many reasons why women may tend to assume more responsibilities at home or when it comes to raising children. Many say the patterns often start before kids are born, with fathers given less or no paid paternity leave. The shift in household chores then don't likely change after mothers return to work.

In her 2019 book, Rodsky provided tips for working parents to improve their household and time management situations. Among her tips are four key rules that parents can consider when dividing chores and determining who does what type of work:

  1. All time is created equal.
  2. Reclaim your right to be interesting.
  3. Start where you are now.
  4. Establish your values and standards.

Parents can list out all chores and split them into four categories, as Rodsky recommends in her book and in the book's accompanying card game, which is available as a free download after a book purchase -- Home (handling dishes, groceries), Out (transporting kids), Caregiving (medical, dental appointments) and Magic (because it takes time to play Santa or the Tooth Fairy).

The Lancet Public Health study is the latest report illustrating the broad gap and labor divide between women and men. A 2021 analysis from the Center for Global Development also found that women on average provide three times more child care during the pandemic than men. Another 2021 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation also found that women were likely to experience more stress from the pandemic's impact than men.

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