`Women's work' a thing of the past? Think again

Yes, it's true. Women still perform most household tasks. Men still take out the trash, make home repairs, and do yardwork. Despite the fact that so many women are employed outside the home, a Johnson Wax survey on the state of the American home reveals that women spend nearly three times as many hours performing household tasks as any other person in the home. A total of 1,400 households in the United States were surveyed.

Almost 50 percent of those polled say they spend less time cleaning now than they did five years ago. Only 40 percent clean according to a set schedule. And 60 percent say they clean whenever they can find the time.

``For many families, the need to clean isn't as great as it used to be,'' says Janice Hogan, chairman of the Family Economics and Home Management Section of the American Home Economics Association, who analyzed the Johnson survey.

``And women who work outside the home simply have less time to devote to home care. Despite the women's movement, and the trend to dual-career families, this survey tells us that gender roles have been slow to change in the home,'' she says.

The female head-of-household spends an average of 11.2 hours per week cleaning and doing other household tasks. Male heads-of-household spend an average of 3.9 hours.

Although 79 percent of those polled say they believe strongly that having children perform chores increases their sense of responsibility, sons and daughters contribute less than one third of total hours spent cleaning the home each week. Daughters under age 18 spend 2.7 hours and sons under 18 spend two hours each week on housework.

The survey revealed that children of single parents help more around the house, read less, and watch more television than children in two-parent families. Children of single parents spend 3.5 hours a day watching television, compared with less than 40 minutes a day spent reading.

The fact that sons and daughters are not assuming more responsibility, says Dr. Hogan, may be because their parents also have less time to teach them about home care.

``If you ask children to perform home chores,'' she says, ``it takes support, coaching, and reward. Many women who work outside the home think it is simply more efficient to do it all themselves.''

While the survey shows that people want their homes to be ``clean as a comfort factor,'' they apparently don't want to spend too much precious leisure time taking care of them.

Eighty-six percent of those polled list ``providing a happy, loving home'' as their No. 1 goal, and they prefer to spend prime time with their families - eating together, discussing their children's day, helping them with school work, and reading to them.

Other priorities include watching television, reading, and participating in physical fitness activities.

Families, according to the survey, spend 15.8 hours per week in family activities, 14.4 hours per week watching TV, 9.1 hours cleaning the house, 9.1 hours preparing meals, 5.7 hours reading, and 5.3 hours on crafts and hobbies.

According to Selwyn Enzer, associate director of the Center for Futures Research at the University of Southern California, the survey illustrates the changing role of the home.

``The American home has long been the center for family life and is now being called upon to support an even wider variety of personal and family activities than in the past,'' says Dr. Enzer.

``In addition to providing shelter and a private center for family life, it is increasingly being used for self-fulfillment activities such as entertainment, physical fitness, work, and education.

``So they are spending less time on home care because they want their home to support their lifestyle instead of having to support their home.''

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