Ladies, Start Your Vacuums!
Recently, researchers looked at how the simple act of doing household chores has changed in the past 45 years. The study’s findings qualify as a good example of “be careful what you wish for.”
In the early 20th century, middle class housewives spent a significant amount of time and energy maintaining the home. Of course, most women viewed this menial work as drudgery. Manufacturers of labor-saving devices stood to profit handsomely from every new invention or improvement that promised to reduce the amount of mindless labor necessary to maintain the home. From automatic washing machines and electric clothes dryers to electric vacuum cleaners, technological improvements were hailed as godsends that would help liberate women, ushering in a golden age of leisure for hardworking middle class homemakers.
The new study examined how things have changed over the last 45 years, and the results are startling. The time devoted to “household management” (meaning labor invested in cooking, cleaning, scrubbing, sweeping, dusting, polishing, etc.) has declined from nearly 26 hours per week in 1965, to just 13 hours a week in 2010. Today’s women are doing half as much housework as their 1965 counterparts. More to the point, women who don’t work outside the home are burning about 360 fewer calories every day.
Archer E, Shook RP, Thomas DM, Church TS, Katzmarzyk PT, Hébert JR, et al. 45-Year Trends in Women's Use of Time and Household Management Energy Expenditure. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56620. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056620. Epub 2013 Feb 20.