On the eve of Mother's Day 1989 and after two decades of feminism, two family researchers say moms remain responsible for most of what gets done around the house.
"For a lot of household tasks, being responsible takes as much if not more time than actually doing the task," Pat Voydanoff, director of the Center for Family Development at the University of Dayton, said Friday.Timothy Brubaker, editor of Family Relations, a national journal of applied family research, said the overworked "supermom" remains part of American family life.
In studies of who does what around the house, Brubaker found that in most families, traditional domestic tasks of child care and housework are still women's work.
Even in families that divide up such jobs as meal preparation and car-pooling the kids, mothers often bear the psychological burden of responsibility, he said.
"Some dual-career families do share tasks, but in many cases while the father may cook, it's the mother who has told the father to prepare the supper, what to prepare and has probably purchased the food. So the activity is being carried out by the father, but if it doesn't get done, if the kid doesn't get fed, the mother will feel the guilt more than the father who forgot to read the instructions," he said.
The key question is which parent feels responsible for tasks getting accomplished, said Brubaker, who is director of the Family and Child Studies Center at Miami University.
Voydanoff said discussions about sharing domestic jobs have gone on for years, but studies still find widespread complaints about lack of household work-sharing, and one reason may be that women have trouble letting go of responsibilities.
"Though working, they still feel they're secondary providers and primary family care givers," she said.
But she said the pattern is reinforced by men.
"I don't think that men are really asking or eager to take it over. If the men volunteered, it might make it easier for the women to let it go."