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Does Your Relationship Value Unpaid Work

Half of women are unhappy with how domestic chores are divided, a fact that often leads to tension and disputes within relationships.

These Show Notes are a ChatGPT summary of the episode transcript (with brief additional editing)

On today’s episode of Living the Team Life with Kim and Rog, the hosts focus their attention on the subject of “invisible work,” a term often used to describe unpaid labour mainly taking place within the household setting.

Rog sets the stage for the conversation, emphasizing that while professional work is usually remunerated, domestic responsibilities often go unpaid. Moreover, these tasks are disproportionately shouldered by women. Kim, however, takes issue with labelling this kind of work as “invisible.” She argues that by using such terminology, society inadvertently contributes to the misconception that this labour is of lesser importance. In her view, the work is not invisible; it’s just neither financially compensated nor adequately acknowledged.

The duo then dives into the various categories of unpaid labour that exist—ranging from caregiving and housework to emotional support and even volunteerism. They refer to a 2019 survey that highlighted a striking gender disparity: women were found to spend an average of 21 hours more per week on unpaid labour compared to their male counterparts. Even when working in paid labour. Kim adds another layer to this discussion by pointing out that almost half of women are unhappy with how domestic chores are divided, a fact that often leads to tension and disputes within relationships. Rog substantiates this argument, noting that disagreements over household responsibilities rank highly among causes of relationship conflicts.

The conversation moves towards the historical background, elaborating on how traditional roles have undergone transformations, yet the inequality remains entrenched. Rog suggests that significant life events, like marriage or becoming parents, often result in couples falling back into traditional gender roles, particularly when resources are limited. However, Kim counters that this is just one facet of a complex, multi-layered issue that is deeply influenced by historic norms and societal expectations. Both hosts agree that this isn’t merely a labour distribution problem; it also has a significant impact on the overall harmony within relationships and needs to be tackled through skill-building and communication.

Next, Kim and Rog zero in on the unequal distribution of household labour, attributed partly to ingrained gender roles and societal expectations. From a young age, girls are conditioned to be caregivers, while boys are moulded into problem-solvers, perpetuating traditional roles into adulthood. Kim observes that society still places a disproportionate amount of expectation on women; for instance, when a sibling is expecting a baby, a woman is anticipated to naturally assume a caregiving role, whereas a man simply receives congratulations.

Both acknowledge that there have been shifts—Rog cites that today’s men are more involved in childcare than before, often participating in tasks like diaper-changing. Yet societal norms haven’t kept pace with these changes. Kim also introduces an economic perspective, discussing the wage gap that incentivizes women to take up part-time work or unpaid roles. This cyclical issue becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, trapping women in both professional and domestic roles. Additionally, Kim underscores that women predominantly perform emotional labour like remembering birthdays or offering emotional support, which should be a shared responsibility.

The conversation veers towards the inadequacies of societal structures like parental leave policies and emphasizes the paramount importance of communication within relationships. Both hosts agree that without open dialogue, partners make assumptions rooted in societal norms, creating resentment and misunderstandings. Rog notes that many men feel undervalued because they believe their contributions to the household are meaningful, albeit not recognizing that the bulk of unpaid labour is still performed by their female partners. Kim concurs but points out that this feeling of underappreciation among men emanates from the original problem of inequality.

In the final segment of the podcast, actionable solutions are discussed for addressing the unpaid work and unequal domestic responsibilities between partners. Kim and Rog advocate for setting aside dedicated time to discuss the division of chores and responsibilities openly.

They recommend creating a comprehensive list of tasks, categorized by different sectors such as household chores, life admin, and childcare. The idea is to agree on the significance of each task and to establish how it should be carried out, thereby circumventing future resentment. Instead of a mere equal distribution, both suggest a fair apportioning of tasks based on each individual’s skillset, time availability, and resources.

Revisiting and reassessing these arrangements weekly can help adapt to changing situations and maintain fairness. Mastery in communication about household chores, they argue, can spill over into broader relational aspects, fostering a culture of transparent and constructive discussion.

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To learn more about Kim & Rog's story and what inspired them to start their podcast.