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Splitting up the Housework for Married Couples with Dual Careers

First of all, this column has been publishing opinions from leading researchers, so, just a regular researcher like me feels rather shy about contributing. But, I’m happy to be allowed to be so bold as to say here that, "this kind of pattern also exists".

It seems unusual to have a family in which both husband and wife are researchers, but in the case of women researchers, as Professor Mariko Ogawa of Mie University wrote in her article "Dual-Career Academic Couples" (Opinion, July 16, 2008), about half of them have husbands who are also in academia. Right now, this has risen to over 65%. This became clear after Prof. Ogawa’s article, through the "Large-Scale Survey of Actual Conditions of Gender Equality in Scientific and Technological Professions" conducted in July, 2008 by the Japan Inter-Society Liaison Association Committee for Promoting Equal Participation of Men and Women in Science and Engineering. My family is an example of this type of situation; but, throughout all the time we’ve been married, we have divided all the weekday housework (cooking, laundry, housecleaning, child care, and so on) by taking turns on a weekly basis. On days off from work, the one whose turn it is the following week does the shopping.

One thing we learned through sharing housework duties was how much our lives revolve around food. Food preparation is a necessary, daily task, and, in our case, food accounts for 70-80% of the total time spent on housework. By dividing all the housework, including food, so that we take turns, alternating weekly, there are weeks when we can be completely absorbed in our research, and weeks during which domestic work occupies a great deal of our time. I think we have been able to divide our housekeeping work both in concept and in practice. I feel like using this system of taking turns has added variety and richness to our daily lifestyles and work.

So, how does everyone in the family feel about their mother and father’s system of alternating housekeeping duties? I’ll describe here what they think. When I asked my husband his feelings about our system, he said, "It works well, doesn’t it? But, there aren’t any other researchers around me who do that. Even if I just help out a little, you know, they’re usually surprised to hear me say, ’I even make the kids’ lunch boxes’."

Read the rest of the story: A System for Alternating Housework for Married Couples with Dual Careers in Research.