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Fathers who work from home perform less childcare and housekeeping for fear of ‘losing their masculinity’.

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, many organizations have embraced remote work, which may unintentionally force couples to adopt a more “traditional” lifestyle.

New research on parents who do not regularly visit an office reveals that mothers end up caring for their children more often than fathers.

This is believed to be the result of mothers utilizing their flexible employment arrangements to schedule additional housework.

Researchers from the Universities of Essex and Kent believe, however, that home-working fathers fear ‘losing their manhood’ if they take on more everyday responsibilities.

Fathers who work from home perform less childcare and housekeeping for fear of 'losing their masculinity'.
Fathers who work from home perform less childcare and housekeeping for fear of 'losing their masculinity'.

Professor Heejung Chung stated, “Flexible working arrangements do not change the gender normative assumptions or power dynamics regarding who should perform housework and child care; however, they can eliminate some work-related restrictions that may have prevented mothers from performing both paid and domestic work.”

The researchers analyzed data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, which polled 1,694 working parents with at least one kid younger than 12 years old.

This recorded the number of hours that each participant was responsible for performing typical domestic tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

It was also noted if the father, mother, or both parents were primarily responsible for child care, as well as whether either parent worked from home or utilized flexible hours.

Flextime is when a person works a predetermined number of hours per week or day but has the flexibility to alter their start and end times.

Even though data was collected between 2010 and 2016, the findings are likely to be more accurate now that more people work from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To isolate the effect of working from home on childcare and housekeeping, the data was adjusted to compare individuals with comparable income, education level, ethnicity, age, and neighborhood.

The study, which was published in Work, Employment and Society, determined that women spent an average of 13.4 hours per week on housework, while males spent 5.5 hours.

In addition, 54% of mothers reported being primarily responsible for child care.

In terms of employment arrangements, seven percent of fathers reported staying at home, compared to five percent of mothers.

Nonetheless, 15% of mothers utilized flextime, whereas only 11% of men did so.

The researchers discovered that parents with higher incomes were more likely to utilize flexible work arrangements than parents with lower incomes.

Seven and twelve percent of women and men in the upper wage range worked from home, and 19 and 13 percent utilized flextime, respectively.

However, only 3% of mothers and 2% of fathers in lower-wage occupations worked from home, and 12% and 8% respectively worked flextime.

When fathers were able to work from home, they were half as likely to report sharing childcare compared to those who were unable to work from home.

Professor Chung stated, ‘Fathers who worked from home, or who had the option but did not utilize it consistently, were considerably less likely to report sharing or being primarily responsible for child care than those who did not have access to the arrangement.

Men may worry about losing their masculine and ideal-worker personas if they adopt flexible work arrangements to take on extra childcare obligations and housework due to gender norms.

When mothers worked from home, however, they were twice as likely to indicate that they were primarily responsible for child care, thereby preserving the “traditional division.”

It is believed that working from home freed them from restrictions that barred them from performing unpaid household labor in addition to their employment while in the office.

Professor Chung added, “Working from home and having a lot of flexibility over one’s schedule enhances mothers’ involvement in housework and child care, especially for lower-income occupations, resulting in a more traditional split of housework and child care.”

Working from home was associated with a modest increase in the chance of couples sharing childcare responsibilities among women in higher-income occupations.

In contrast, the researchers discovered that ‘flexitime’ – in which workers can alter their start and end timings – led to a more equitable split of housework.

Dr. Cara Booker stated, “Flexitime, particularly for lower-skilled/lower-paid occupations, facilitates a more egalitarian division of labor, probably because it is employed to maximize working hours and income for households.”

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