Life Course Transitions and Housework Analysis

It is common knowledge that children always wish to grow up faster whereas the only dream of all the adults is to come back to that beautiful period of their life when they were children and when they did not have to think about those problems each of their faces every day. The desire to grow up and striving to be able to make the decisions on their own is what most of the children are thinking of because, as they think, when you are an adult you are very serious and responsible and this seriousness comes not with experience but simply with years adding to your age. Most of children will never be able to comprehend that the adults, not all of them, of course, get their seriousness and experience learning from their mistakes, and most of them enter into the grown-up life being not ready for this. This is why most of people have to become grown-ups due to the circumstances they turn out to be in, and this, in most of the cases, sharp and unexpected transition from childhood into adulthood can be very crucial for the development of their personality. In fact, being a parent is a big responsibility even for an adult, and usually it does not go off smoothly even with those who were ready for this, let alone those who have to be involved into the household routine having absolutely no clue what this routine is all about. The article “Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework” deals with the influence of transitions to different statuses on men and women. These transitions involve such changes in the life as getting married or just starting living together as well as one of the most troublesome which is becoming parents. According to the article, the attitude to the household responsibility differs with a person’s passing from one stage of life to another, and the contribution to the housework depend greatly on the variety of factors, gender factor being the most important among them. From all the life course stages each person has to go through on the way of his or her personality formation, the most critical is the transition to parenthood as here the most widespread problem such as household labor division arises. The aim of the article “Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework” is to find out how the transitions to different stages of the life course effect the household work time and whether these transitions effect it at all. In other words, this article aims at discovering whether the amount of time spared out by a person for the household work gets bigger or lessens when this person grows older and his or her responsibilities change at such important stages of life as cohabitation, marriage and becoming a parent.

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One of the most important issues mentioned in this article concerns the fact that “Time spent for household labor is not static across the life course” (Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework, 2008). Indeed, as a person grows older, his or her demands change all the time, and what was considered to be important a couple of years ago seems to be of now significance as the years pass by. It is but natural that with time some people’s household responsibilities get reduced and change, especially when it comes to marriage or cohabitation, which, apart from changing domestic responsibilities, brings a lot of new into each person’s life. In the childhood all people are being brought up in a way which would make them more responsible and each of them has certain duties which parents impose on them in order to make them more organized but with time these duties get substituted by something more important for them and “the household work changes because of some event or circumstance, or because people change” (Margrit Eichler & Patrizia Albanese, 2007). The article “Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework” emphasizes the necessity of examining the influence of this moving to a different life stage. According to the article, more and more couples in Australia as well as in other countries tend to live together without getting married and spend more time in these cohabitant relations than they used to do before. Thus, the couples get married much later and usually have fewer children. Moreover, “not only have pathways through the life course become more varied with individuals spending more time living outside the “traditional” family unit, but the resources and experiences that individuals bring to relationships have changed” (Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework, 2008). This is why namely the lifecourse approach should be taken into consideration when analyzing how different “gendered patterns of housework” change with time, especially when moving from one stage of life course to another. Discussion and analysis of this issue seems to be very important as more and more young couples get separated, namely because they are not able to share the housework time properly because each of them, entering into a new stage of life, starts having more important problems to cope with. The contribution of the article into the discussion of this issue lies in giving theoretical justification to the role of gender in spending time for household responsibilities in two important life stages, that is, marriage and becoming parents, as well as stating the extent of the influence of the “transitions in marital and parental status” (Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework, 2008) on the time both, men and women, spend for housework.

Furthermore, the article gives the other scientists’ approaches to the problem of spending time for housework regarding the gender, comparing and analyzing different data obtained in the course of research. There is no secret that “responsibility for childrearing and household work remain predominantly a woman’s domain” (Nancy Folbre and Michael Bittman, 2004) and most of statistics show that namely gender distinction influences the process of sharing housework hours: “the number of hours per day spent on household responsibilities differs markedly by sex of respondent and employment of wife…” ( Patricia A Ross, 1985) whereas it is obvious that men are perfectly capable of coping with the household responsibilities when they have nobody to do this instead of them. As stated in the article under consideration, “a transition from cohabitation to marriage has no significant effect on men’s or women’s housework hours” (Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework, 2008) but when exiting from the relations, either cohabitant or marital, certain changes in time spent for housework can be observed. Strange as it may seem but men start spending more time for purely women’s work when becoming single after separation or divorce whereas women, on the contrary, reduce time spent for housework after they get separated with their partners. What’s more, the data obtained from the research conducted in the article show that when passing from marital stage to the parental one, women tend to increase their time spent for household work while men either do not change their household hours after the transition to the parenthood or reduce them to the minimal responsibilities. Here it should be mentioned that such information is of great value for the feminists who already for a long time try to attract everybody’s attention to the fact that “household work” continues to be divided very unequally along the lines of gender” (Cui-Xia Zhang & John E. Farley, 1995). There is no wonder that sharing household responsibilities can be so unequal sometimes as it was for more than a century that women were forced to devote their whole life to the housework whereas men did not see themselves spending time for cleaning the house or things of this kind. It is the essence of most of the women to keep everything in order as they have certain instincts for keeping their place warm, clean and comfortable. What both men and women were getting used to during the centuries is not so easy to eradicate. This is why such behavior of men after the birth of the child, namely ignoring or reducing their housework hours is typical though it does not mean that it should be left without any tries to mend it.

And finally, the article analyzes the reduction of men’s housework hours after entering into marriage, trying to provide sufficient reasons for that. In general, the main justification of such behavior is that after getting married and having children, women get more concentrated on the domestic work, and men tend to focus on the paid work; thus, each of them is expressing the devotion to the family in the chosen way. Another factor which influences the men’s contribution into the housework is the wife’s employment and profitability of her job: “Husbands with employed wives do more housework than husbands with non-employed wives, especially if their wives have lucrative or high-status careers” (Scott Coltrane, 1997). Indeed, the article “Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework” assumes that when living together, women contribute more to the family budget but once having got married, their income reduces which results in the increase of housework hours. Men, on the contrary, contribute to the household income more after they get married which results in the decline of their domestic labor amount. As a result of these discussions, three main hypotheses were formulated in the article. The first one is that when passing from the stage of cohabitation to the marriage, the amount of time spent for housework increases for women and reduces for men. The second hypothesis presents the contrary situation that after divorce, men’s time on domestic chores increases while women’s time tends to reduce. And the third hypothesis suggests that after the birth of a child, women start spending more time for domestic labor whereas men’s hours spent for housework decrease. The results of research conducted further, which was based on interviewing men and women of different financial statuses and households, show that irrespective of transition into marital or parental status, women still spend more time on domestic labor than men. The research also proves that women’s domestic labor increases with the birth of the first child whereas the men’s amount of time spent for housework is more or less stable in the course of all the transitions though it was also noticed that “Men’s time on routine housework declines as more children are born” (Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework, 2008). This, according to the article, happens due to the fact that demand for housework gets higher as more children are born, which widens the gender gap in household responsibilities. What’s more, the research showed that after the divorce men almost double their time spend for housework which proves that “the absence of a female partner results in men taking on household chores that they otherwise would not do” (Life Course Transitions and Housework: Marriage, Parenthood, and Time on Housework, 2008).

The results taken into account, it would be reasonable to say that the research described in this article is successful and well-grounded. It explains the theoretical part given at the beginning of the article and confirms all the suggestions and hypotheses with appropriate data and figures. During the research, it was also found out that some of the assumptions made at the beginning of the article had to be refuted, as for instance, the one which stated that the birth of the first child influences the amount of time men spare out for the domestic work. In fact, the research showed that men spend approximately equal amount of time during all the life course transitions. It seems that the article gives enough proof for the issues it sorted out at the beginning of the research. The data are laid out logically, and consequently, they either refute or confirm the points the research was aimed at. The results of the research are persuasive, and the article in general makes the reader agree with it. It should be admitted that the topic of the article is vital, and it draws the attention of the reader at once. After reading the article, one cannot but agree that at different stages of personality formation, or as it is called in the article, “life course transition” the person’s attitude to the housework changes as well as the amount of time spared out for it may vary from year to year depending on the way of living, circumstances and situation in general. Nevertheless, the article proves that the inequality in sharing household responsibilities is still present in the relationships between men and women though the rate of this inequality differs depending on whether the couple is in cohabitant or marital status. Gender discrimination as such is not discussed as the article is aimed at proving or refuting the three main hypotheses drawn up at the beginning of research rather than of inequality of genders. In general, the article is very informative and educational, with a number of proofs confirming the points where the article was right.

References

  1. Scott Coltrane, 1994, Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework, and Gender Equity, Oxford University Press, US.
  2. Patricia A. Roos, 1985, Gender and Work: A Comparative Analysis of Industrial Societies, SUNY Press.
  3. Edith Gray, 2000, ‘Household Work for Men and Women: Implications for Future Childrearing Decisions’, Journal of Australian Studies, p.85.
  4. Margrit Eichler, Patrizia Albanese, 2007, ‘What Is Household Work? A Critique of Assumptions Underlying Empirical Studies of Housework and an Alternative Approach’, Canadian Journal of Sociology, vol. 32, no. 2, p. 227.
  5. Cui-Xia Zhang, John E. Farley, 1995, ‘Gender and the Distribution of Household Work: A Comparison of Self-Reports by Female College Faculty in the United States and China, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 26, no.2, p.195.
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