If you consider that day nurseries in the UK can charge £70 a day per child it’s hardly surprising that unpaid carework and household chores are estimated to be worth a staggering £1 trillion – more than the whole of the manufacturing and retail industries put together.
And who takes responsibility for all that unpaid work? No surprises to learn that according to ONS figures for 2014, women carried out 26 hours of unpaid work on average per week compared to 16 hours by men. And many women would probably dispute the male average figure of 16 hours!
The home has undergone substantial change in recent years with both couples having to be wage earners in order to afford to get on the property ladder. The traditional role of the woman devoted entirely to running the home while the man works full time, gave way to women working part or full time and frustratingly trying to juggle the demands of work both inside and outside the home.
People often have to commute long distances to their workplaces, work long hours and couples are rarely able to relax together in the evenings. Many are anxious and feeling overstretched and their children are equally anxious if they not able to spend enough time altogether as a family. When the family is struggling, relatives and elderly neighbours living alone get overlooked and loneliness creeps into their lives.
Hence the wellbeing of the whole of society is dependant on the state and happiness of the home.
But a ‘third way’ is now gaining ground – shared responsibility or the rapidly growing demographic of the stay-at-home Dad. No longer reproached by wives for their absenteeism from the home, men who are able to redesign their work schedule to take a more prominent role at home are reporting increased levels of contentment and engagement within the family, especially when they take on equal parenting roles. A recent US study claims that Dads who wash the dishes raise more aspirational daughters.
“As a man, there is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that you are at least contributing toward the physical care of your family. The best case scenario is being able to do that while at the same time spending time with them at home,” commented one blogger who has “done the entire range” – worked in an office 100% of the time, worked from home 100% of the time, and now works part time in the office, part time at home. “Dads who work from home, at least some of the time are the happiest,” he says.
While it’s generally accepted for women to rearrange their hours at work to balance home responsibilities, there’s still a bias against men doing the same.
But as the demands of an aging population add to the number of hours couples need to devote to caring for their extended families, perhaps companies will find they must provide a more flexible work schedule for both men and women if they are to retain their trusted employees.