It’s been 20 years since Hochschild published The Second Shift
, but it’s critique of domestic labor still rings true in my classes. When teaching gender inequality I ask my students to think about their childhoods, how domestic labor was split in their home, and then discuss what the consequences are of this division. Mom’s Chores/Dad’s Chores is a simple, but powerful activity.
I ask my students to brainstorm chores that are stereotypically associated with moms and those that are stereotypically associated with dads. I have a male volunteer write the mom chores down as student blurt them out. “Laundry. Dishes. Groceries and cooking. Cleaning. Vacuuming. Transport kids to activities. Schedule doctors appointments.” The list goes on for a while and is daunting to say the least.
Then I have a female volunteer write a list of dad chores from the students lists. “Keeping the family safe. Mow the lawn. Fix the car. Squash bugs. Weed eat. Scoop Snow. Change oil.” Inevitably someone chimes, “Make the money.” If someone says this I ask my students how many of their fathers and mothers worked and almost the entire class raises their hands. Then I ask if the “bring home the bacon” stereotype is more fantasy than reality today. Students unanimously say that its a myth now-a-days.
After we have a good list of chores for both parents I ask my students if they see any common theme for each list. It sometimes takes a minute, but my students almost always see that the mom chores are everyday tasks. Alternately the dad chores are things that have to be done, but they don’t have to be done every single day.
I always finish the activity by asking, “do you think domestic labor inequality creates pressure on a relationship?” “Could this lead to divorce or marital unhappiness?” “What did you learn about gender roles and domestic labor from your childhood?” “What will you teach your children about gender and domestic labor?”