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“What can I do to help?”

24 February, 2020

If you celebrate Christmas, there’s a lot to do at home over the festive period and it’s useful to share the load. But how the labour is divided can be a source of considerable strain. Even questions like the one in the title, while on the face of it useful, can put the emotional burden on the person being asked.

The division of domestic labour is a fraught issue all year round, and one that we in the UK aren’t doing a great job of. Despite increasing labour force participation, women still do 60% more of the unpaid household chores than men and there are many tasks that are still seen as typically the responsibility of women. There is an obvious solution – that men need to do more housework. But an article we came across this week suggests making an effort to understand why the issue exists as well. It sets out the argument that gendered division of labour is so widespread because traditionally it has had an important purpose. Since many jobs take time and effort to learn to do well, families could save time by dividing duties and encouraging individuals to specialise. The clear division of labour also made it easy for couples to know who was going to do what and when. Technology may have erased some of the need for specialisation, but it hasn’t erased the need for clarity and planning around duties – the point for today’s couples to note.

And if it’s still not clear who’s responsible for what, the Wall Street Journal has suggested using business titles to outline responsibilities. Maybe the Executive Waste Manager (putting out the bins), Chief Procurement Officer (buying presents and food) and Vice President of External Communications (writing cards and coordinating family members) can come together and make the dream work this Christmas.

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