Women do lion's share at home
Wednesday, February 12, 2003 – Print Edition, Page A7

He may be handier on diaper duty than his father was, but the average Canadian male still has trouble finding the "on" switch for the vacuum cleaner.

According to the 2001 census, women in Canada are making slow progress in getting the men in their lives to divide the household chores more evenly. Women remain more than twice as likely as men to do at least 30 hours a week of cooking and cleaning, which is about how the household division of labour broke down five years ago.

Men, on the other hand, are still twice as likely as their female counterparts to say they do nothing at all -- 13 per cent of Canadian males must spend a lot of time sleeping on the couch while the laundry's getting folded. This is an improvement, however, from 16 per cent in 1996.

Lori Melnechenko, a Regina teacher whose farmer husband has gone back to school, has an adult son living at home and aging parents who need groceries delivered and errands run. She figures she gets a moment to herself at about 1:30 a.m. The cleaning and cooking are her job, though her son does his own laundry.

"I'm getting more tired just thinking about it," she said.

"I can't remember the last time I read a book. I can't remember the last time I soaked in a tub."

Ms. Melnechenko has good, if weary, company, according to the census numbers. About 21 per cent of Canadian women spend 30 hours or more a week on unpaid chores alone, compared to eight per cent of men. A similar trend showed up in childcare, with 16 per cent of women devoted 30 hours or more a week on diapers, bathing and feeding. Only 7 per cent of men, said the same.

And although the census did not find a spike in the number of Canadians now caring for aging parents, those who did were more likely to be women.

About 20 per cent of women reported caring for a senior, compared with 15 per cent of men. Only a small number said those responsibilities took more than 10 hours a week.

Cynthia Pugh's husband had never done a load of laundry growing up. But with both husband and wife working and young children at home, some adjustments were necessary.

The Langley, B.C., mom says her husband now does 35 per cent of the household chores, including the odd vacuuming.

She said she persuaded him to take over partly by never criticizing, "even if he turned all my whites pink and shrunk my sweater to a child's size two."

But Ms. Pugh's next comments suggest that Canadian women may play a part in perpetuating their endless workload.

"The odd thing is," she said, "the more he does to help, the harder I find it. The less I do around the house, the less I feel like Mom."

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