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Even though married mothers have a partner to share the load, a new study shows they end up doing more housework than single mothers

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May 16, 2019 11:40 AM

Married moms spend more time on chores and get less sleep than single moms, despite having a partner with whom they can share the work, new research has found.

According to the study, which was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, researchers found that married moms are more likely to sacrifice their leisure time and sleep in order to do housework like cooking and cleaning.

“The idea that a mother does more housework when she has a partner or spouse may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s the reality in most American households,” said Linda Jacobsen, a demographer and the vice president of U.S. Programs at Population Reference Bureau.

The researchers hypothesized that this difference between married mothers and single or divorced mothers may be due to societal expectations for married women.

“Married women may feel that to be a good wife, they must prioritize housework and childcare ahead of their own leisure and sleep,” said Joanna Pepin, one of the coauthors of the study, according to PRB. “These expectations likely stem from society’s collective assumptions of what it means to be a wife and mother.”

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A related study, funded by the same institute, shows a similar trend in women who are married to a stay-at-home father.

The study found that married mothers who bring in the sole income of the home do about an hour of housework a day, while sole-income fathers only spend about 10 minutes on housework.

“When the at-home parent is the mother, there’s a clear expectation that she’ll be in charge of the family’s domestic life,” study coauthor Noelle Chesley told PRB. “That’s not necessarily the case when the at-home parent is the father.”

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When taken together, both studies show that married moms take on the majority of household tasks like cooking and cleaning.

“These studies make it clear that moms living with men do more daily household chores than single moms,” said Jacobsen. “Even if married moms are the sole breadwinners, when they come home they still do a significant share of the housework on top of their paid jobs.”

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