Mothers still do the lion's share of housework

Mothers still do the lion's share of housework

Media release — 9 May 2016

Mothers still do the lion's share of housework

Australian mothers continue to do the lion’s share of the housework, even when their children have headed off to school and left home, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Institute Director, Anne Hollonds said that becoming a mother heralded a dramatic change in the lives of Australian women who went from spending a weekly average of 2 hours caring for others to a whopping 51.

“This is a huge change for women who virtually overnight start wrestling with far greater caring responsibilities than they have ever had to confront before,” she said.

“Current data shows that when women become mothers they also increase the time they spend on housework like cooking, cleaning and washing from a weekly average of 16 hours to 25.

“The extra time spent looking after children and doing housework came as women reduced their time in paid work, declining from a weekly average of 33 hours pre-motherhood to 9 hours after the birth.

“As children grow older, mothers begin a long process of winding back caring responsibilities, dropping to a weekly average of 26 hours when their youngest child starts school and to 5 hours once children have left home.”

However, AIFS Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said that despite the eventual drop-off in time spent raising children, there was no similar let up from the demands of housework.

“When women become mothers they spend a weekly average of 25 hours on household chores, and this increases over the years that follow, with mothers spending an average of 30 hours on household chores in the year their youngest child starts school,” she said.

“Even when their youngest child turns 15, mothers still spend 28 hours on housework – and this doesn’t really change – even in the year after all the children have left home – housework still consumes 25 hours a week.” 

Institute Director, Anne Hollonds said trends in childcare and housework appear to have remained fairly static in the past two decades and did not look set to change.

“It all adds up to a daunting prospect for young mothers today, who may wonder how they are going to shoulder most of the childcare and housework, while at the same time being encouraged to return to the workforce as quickly as possible.

“Not surprisingly, many mothers report feeling tired. Forty per cent of women with pre-schoolers agreed they often felt tired, worn out or exhausted from meeting the needs of their children.

“Apart from being a fairness issue, pressures on mothers may affect the quality of family relationships. It’s time for more equal sharing of domestic chores to be seriously addressed as an economic and social issue affecting all families raising children.”

The AIFS analysis drew on 14 years of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) Study. HILDA is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Service and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

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