Fairness in the Household

In our reading, “When Mom and Dad Share it All” by Lisa Belkin, we learn about families who try to divide parenting and housework equally and fairly, compromising around each parents’ job and home life/work preferences.  But what determines true “fairness” in splitting chores? Does “fairness” mean that the chores are split 50/50 at all times, and are kept gender-neutral (cleaning and cooking does not always fall to the wife, for example)? I think that it depends on the individual family situation what constitutes as a fair divide of work.  In the article, parents Amy and Marc work to create an equal split in home chores, but they allow their personal preferences to create possible inequality; Marc enjoys paying bills and mowing the lawn, while Amy loves to buy her children’s clothing.  If both partners’ preferences and concerns are taken into account, then they could consider their splitting of chores “fair,” even if sometimes the work is split 60/40.  What is not fair, however, is when chores are determined not by the parents’ preferences or availability, but by gender stereotypes.  If the mother enjoys cooking, great! But if she prefers to share that responsibility with her partner, then that should be taken into consideration, and her partner should not refuse cooking based on gender (other situations, such as job times, etc. would be reasonable arguments against splitting that chore).  Belkin writes how women often feel pressured by onlookers in their community to keep their households in order, because society says if there is anything awry, it is her fault, and not her partner’s.  That too is unfair.  Equal responsibility needs to be put on both partners in a relationship; what they choose to do with that responsibility is up to them, but “fairness” exists primarily when everyone in the relationship is putting in equal effort.

When Mom and Dad Share it All. Belkin, Lisa. NYTimes Magazine.  2008.

One thought on “Fairness in the Household

  1. samiraa2013

    I agree with your blog post that “fairness” exist when everyone in the relationship is putting in equal effort. I also agree that “fairness” depends on an individual’s family situation and what is constituted as a fair divide of work because when I was a child in my household gender was never considered when performing household chores or other family contributions. Instead, we based the workload off the specific talents of each person. This constituted “fairness” because what we were good at usually aligned with what we preferred to do. This was the case during meals as we were all assigned to help with food preparation, cooking and cleaning because it was a task we all performed well and had an interest in. Also, we were all assigned to help with this particular task because my parents felt that it was important for their children to learn the basics of cooking no matter what gender we identified with. Cooking family meals and cleaning is usually a task assigned for a woman or wife but this was not the case because cooking for a large family such as my own is exhausting and unfair especially for one person. For other tasks such as clothes washing and folding, it was usually assigned to the person that was good at the job and enjoyed it. Our tasks were not gendered because we felt as though that would be detrimental to ones learning abilities and contributions if certain task were not available for an individual simply because of the social constructions that regulate what is normal for a gender and what is not. So for us it was never a 50/50 split but more about what you were good at that constitutes fairness. Our consideration of fairness may not work for each family, it could lead to a more problematic approach because your talents and skills may not align with what you want to do and what you want to do may not align with your talents. However, I think it is a more substantial approach than organizing chores at home by gender.


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