What Kids Learn from Your Marriage

Divvying up the duties

Love Lesson: Share Responsibilities

We all know that running a house is like running a business, and there is an endless list of responsibilities that need your constant attention -- from cooking and cleaning to schlepping to soccer/ballet/tuba practice. Even when Dad is the sole breadwinner, couples should strive for joint responsibility of the home, says Scott Coltrane, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of Oregon and author of Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework, and Gender Equity: "Data show that each generation expects to share more of both financial and domestic duties."

Need something else to convince your husband of the benefits of folding the occasional load of laundry? Dr. Coltrane has studied national survey data and found that school-age children who do housework with their father are more likely to get along with their peers. They are also less likely than other kids to disobey teachers or to become depressed or withdrawn. "Seeing fathers perform domestic service teaches cooperation and democratic family values," explains Dr. Coltrane.

In our home, by doing the cooking together my husband and I have taught our daughters -- almost by accident -- that men and women can share domestic duties willingly and happily. Whereas I never made such a bold assumption about my own father (probably because I never saw him attempt to boil water), our daughters will go into the world, and into their own relationships, with this expectation.

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