The Responsibilities and Expectations of the New American Dad

Chores: Help Still Wanted

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For all of the advancements men have made in child rearing, they still lag behind women around the house. A recent study in the Journal of Family Issues found that husbands spent 23 hours a week on housework compared with 42 for wives. "Housework" was defined as cleaning, preparing meals, washing dishes, washing and ironing clothes, driving around family members, shopping, doing yard work, maintaining cars, and paying the bills.

"There's this idea of a lazy husband, but since the 1960s men have doubled the housework they do, from 15 to 30 percent," says Dr. Coleman. He adds that men would likely pull even more of their weight around the house if their wives would let them do it their way. "Research has identified that maternal gate-keeping is a problem in many marriages," he says. "A lot of wives have high standards about how things should be done, and that can make men less motivated."

One particularly motivated dad, Klint Ragsdale, has discovered that industrial-strength hand cleaner removes stains from his daughters' dress-up outfits, and he's been known to pull out the power tools to carve pumpkins. "I take things from the garage and use them for day-to-day housekeeping," explains Ragsdale, a part-time working dad of 6-year-old twin girls in Rochester, Minnesota. It's not the way Martha Stewart would do it, but you get the sense it offers him some autonomy.

"I used to be the breadwinner, then we were equal, then she overtook me, so my ego has been slowly chipped away," he says with a laugh. Their situation "came down to an education thing," he says. "She has a master's degree, and I went to vo-tech for auto-body repair." On a typical day Ragsdale gets his girls fed, dressed, and off to the bus; then he cleans the house and runs errands before selling cars for the rest of the afternoon. As his wife leaves her job at 5 p.m. to pick up their kids, he comes home to make dinner, and in the evenings he and his wife bathe the children and get them to bed. "It would be easier to watch the kids full-time," he says, "but I need a job for my self-worth. Taking care of children all day doesn't get you much appreciation."

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