Dads

Dads' household duties worth less than moms'

June 12, 2012 at 6:57 AM ET

What would you value more? Mom cooking dinner for the family, or Dad killing a spider in Junior’s room?

While women are still dealing with the gender wage gap at work, when it comes to the unpaid work moms do at home, their imaginary paychecks would be bigger than those of their husbands.

As Father’s Day approaches this weekend, it’s time to take stock of what dads do for their families beyond just bringing home a paycheck. Alas, the household chores they tend to do aren't worth as much as the sweat equity moms put in at home year round, according to two recent reports.

Insure.com calculated what they deemed to be daddy duties, including things such as barbecuing, killing bugs and mowing the lawn. The study found the domestic tasks would total about $20,248 a year if they were paid work. That compared to $60,182 annually for moms for doing things such as cooking, cleaning and nursing wounds. The value of the work was based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for how much similar jobs out in the real work world would pay.

Another study by Salary.com found that the value of what working dads do at home is actually rising. The company looked at online responses from nearly 3,000 dads who reported on the number of hours they put into tasks at home, including everything from cooking to driving kids around, and found the value of what the dads did jumped to $36,757 this year from $33,858 the previous year. A previous study of work done by working moms found what the moms do at home is valued at $66,979, compared to $63,471 in 2011.

The dads in Salary.com’s sampling were doing more laundry this year, about 1.4 hours, compared to 1.2 hours in 2011; but they cut back on their kitchen time, from 2.7 hours to 2.2 hours.

Women are still the ones doing the heavy lifting at home, said Nancy Folbre, a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts. But she cautioned against giving this type of data on what dads do too much credence.

“They underestimate both what mothers and fathers do,” she noted.

Indeed, Emmet Pierce, a spokesman of Insure.com, said his firm's research was not a scientific study but rather a “lighthearted view of fatherhood. It’s not that every dad conforms to this, but it gives a broad view of what fathers do.”

Dads are doing more around the house, but a shift from that 1950s mentality has been slow.

A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics released last year found: “On an average day, 20 percent of men did housework — such as cleaning or doing laundry — compared with 49 percent of women. Forty-one percent of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 68 percent of women.” And a 2008 Gallup poll found that women are much more likely to do most of the household chores, while men are primarily taking care of the family cars and doing yardwork. 

But traditional family roles are being questioned. A report released Monday by Boston College’s Center for Work & Family found that those dads who choose to stay at home with their kids made “a conscious choice and commitment to be home with their children to the benefit of their families, their wives’ careers, and their own personal fulfillment.” And the center reported 3.4 percent of at-home parents are dads today, compared to 1.7 percent 10 years ago.

“Nearly all fathers are increasingly likely to experience active caregiving, and the result will require employers to adapt their thinking and their actions regarding who needs support to do so adequately,” said Brad Harrington, author of the study and executive director of the Center for Work & Family. “This is not simply a women’s issue.”

Folbre believes that gender responsibilities as they relate to household work are being “renegotiated” but there’s still some resistance and inertia when it comes to change. “We still have a really long way to go,” she added.

Here's a rundown on what working dads do at home and the value of their household tasks from Salary.com:

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