"Men with sisters appear to do less housework, even in middle age." A provocative and, I think, curious statement to make. Yet, according to a paper published in the Journal of Politics, decades of data have led to this conclusion. They suggest that siblings can have as large an impact on gender stereotyping as parents can when it comes to the running of a home. The report goes as far to say that the roles of brother and sister can resemble those of husband and wife. (Frankly, the only way my kids resemble a husband and wife is in a Bickerson's arguing sort of way.)
How to prevent this from happening in our own home? I'm thinking maybe we could start with the philosophy of "It's only work if you're not having fun." I say this, as due to my excellent parenting skills, (or admittedly by some strange fluke), I happen to have tricked my youngest son, 11, into thinking that housework is fun. He routinely mops the kitchen floor, vacuums, and sprays glass cleaner on glass cleanable surfaces with wild abandon. He requested, and received, his very own toilet brush, that he also uses with surprising frequency. He does all of this...for fun. In fact, the day that school ended he asked if he could mop as a sort of "welcome to summer holidays treat." I magnanimously let him.
He does have siblings, a brother and two sisters, none of whom would even pick up a duster unless it were on fire, and probably not even then unless I threatened to take their phones away. Maybe the fact that there is another brother in the house counteracts the unintentional yet subliminal boy vs. girl housecleaning message. Whatever the case, the theory doesn't seem to hold water in my house.
But if that's what the research shows for other families, maybe on the whole we need to do something about this, mostly to save our daughters, and our son's future partners from having to pick up the slack, and the dirty clothes, thanks to our own procreation of boys. The study tells us that our kids are watching us, how we divvy up the chores we do as adults, and how we assign chores to our children. Does your daughter mow the lawn? Does your son set the table? Do you have "boy jobs" and "girl jobs" in your house? Do they get to pick their chores? Take some time to mix it up this week. Unfortunately I can't lend my own son out, as the floors need doing at my house.
This article was originally run in the Metro News. Read Kathy's "It's All Relative" parenting column Mondays in the Metro News. Visit www.kathybuckworth.com. Pick up Kathy's latest book, "I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business" at bookstores everywhere.