There are five pillars to a successful marriage between a full-time working couple – Love, trust, respect, communication, and a fair division of household duties.
Okay, so I made the last point up, but as a middle-aged husband and a father of three, I can tell you the fifth pillar is no less important than the rest.
With more and more women in Singapore joining the workforce – the labour force participation rate of women in 2019 was at 61.1 per cent, compared to 56.5 per cent in 2010 – I believe it is fair to say that men need to step up to help their partners achieve both a career and work-life balance.
So how can husbands help their spouses achieve that?
In a Forbes article titled Breaking Down The Gender Divide To Survive Working From Home, author Adi Gaskell stated: “Many societies still regard women as the primary custodians of the home, with men primarily responsible for bringing in income.”
Even in households whereby women make more money, research has shown that women tend to take more brunt of both housework and childcare duties.
And COVID-19 is only exacerbating the problem.
A separate article by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in the United Kingdom stated that mothers in two-parent households were only doing a third of the uninterrupted paid-work hours of fathers on average. The article cited household responsibilities as the leading cause for this disparity.
Judging from my wife’s feedback on my household contribution (or lack of it), as well as that of my married female friends, I dare say that it is pretty much the same case here in Singapore.
The disparity could result in lasting harm to mothers’ careers, even after we tide over the pandemic.
The workplace is evolving, and men may no longer be the sole breadwinners of a two-parent household.
As women today are more likely to contribute to the household finances, a fairer division of household duties is only logical.
If you are a husband who is already taking on household work, try taking a more proactive approach and perform tasks before being asked.
You will thank me later.
Regardless, if your spouse is a blue- or white-collar worker, providing a listening ear for the problems she faces at work is always helpful.
Be supportive of her career choices and decisions and avoid being condescending. No one likes to be told or given the impression that their work is any less important than their partner’s.
Offer different perspectives and pragmatic solutions to her problems. This applies both ways in a relationship and will also improve communication between couples.
Have you ever had to work overtime to meet a deadline or a client? Or perhaps you’re the sort that likes to hit the gym after work or meet up with friends over drinks to let off some steam?
The chances are that your spouse would also have to or like to do some of those things.
Take turns to tend to your children, allowing your partner some time off to either work or to have some breathing space – Even if that means less time for drinks with the boys.
The more time anyone spends on housework, the less time they would have for work, rest and leisure.
As husbands, we need to take a more proactive approach towards household duties to allow our partners to both excel at work and achieve a work-life balance.
Communicate and respect each other’s profession. And always remember – Happy wife, happy life.