Key points

  • It’s common for women to earn less money than men, but even when earnings are equal, women take on more of the work of running a household.
  • It’s important to divide tasks up fairly with your spouse so there’s no animosity, and so you get an equal opportunity to focus on your career and personal needs.

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The fact that the gender pay gap exists is hardly a secret. Women commonly earn less money than their equally qualified male counterparts. As a result, women tend to have less money in savings for both near-term goals as well as future ones. And many surveys have shown that women tend to lag behind men when it comes to retirement confidence. After all, the less you make, the harder it becomes to fund a retirement plan.

But new Pew Research Center data shows that it’s not just the gender pay gap that women need to deal with. There’s also a housework and caregiving gap that sorely needs to be addressed.

Women are doing more than their fair share

In opposite-sex marriages, it’s still more common for men to be the primary breadwinners, as opposed to women, according to Pew. But that said, the number of women who earn as much as or more than their male spouses has roughly tripled over the past 50 years.

In fact, 29% of married couples have both the male and female spouse earning about the same amount of money. But even in situations like that, research shows that women tend to bear more of the load when it comes to things like household tasks and caregiving. Men, by contrast, tend to have more time for things like career development and leisure.

Not only does this hold true in marriages where both parties earn the same amount of money, but it also applies to married couples where the female spouse is the higher earner. The only setup that has men doing the bulk of the caregiving is one where the sole breadwinner in the household is female. And even then, men and women tend to split housework evenly — despite women being the only ones to go out and earn a paycheck.

Make sure you’re not overburdened

Even in marriages where men respect their wives’ financial contributions to the household, it can be easy to fall into stereotypical patterns that have women picking up the bulk of the load when it comes to caregiving and chores. Now, if you’re in a marriage where one of you works part-time and the other works full-time, it stands to reason that the person working fewer hours should do more housework and caregiving — regardless of gender.

But let’s say you and your spouse both work the same number of hours and earn the same wage, more or less. If you feel that you’re doing more than your fair share of housework and caregiving, it’s time to speak up about it — before it negatively impacts your marriage and mental health.

The best bet in this type of scenario is to have an open conversation. Make a list of your household chores and caregiving tasks that need to get done, and devise a system to divide that work evenly. If both you and your spouse work until 6 p.m., you might agree that one of you will fetch your kids from after-care at school and take them to an extracurricular activity while the other throws in laundry and prepares dinner.

In the morning, you might agree that one of you will make breakfast and help your kids pack their school bags while the other prepares lunches and tidies up. And on weekends, one of you might shuttle your kids to a birthday party and chaperone while the other vacuums and cleans bathrooms.

You deserve to have an opportunity to focus on growing your career, and you also deserve to enjoy downtime. If you feel you’re not getting to do those things because you do the bulk of your housework and caregiving while also holding down a job, then it may be time for a long talk with your spouse — and a serious overhaul in the way you run your household.

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