Census data shows Australian women spend, on average, 5 to 14 hours per week in unpaid domestic work, whereas men spend less than 5 hours a week. Women also spend an additional hour a day looking after children.
At an event I was speaking at last night, a mum asked me this question, “I’m working full time and so is my husband, yet I find I’m organizing everything that needs to happen in the home as well as my day job. My husband is involved in picking up and dropping off children and taking them to activities, but the household operation seems to fall to me. We’ve come so far in equality, why are we still experiencing this situation?”
It’s a great question and one I hear often.
To resolve some of these challenges, working parents look to getting home help, outsourcing household tasks like ironing, cleaning and perhaps sourcing meal services to relieve some of the pressures.
However, there is one area that is frequently overlooked that relieves the underlying pressure and addresses this imbalance and it is our unconscious bias.
Unconscious bias happens automatically, is outside of our awareness and is triggered by our brain making quick assessments of situations, based on our past experiences, background and culture we grew up in.
Unconscious bias has a big role to play in how we are dividing parenting responsibilities. What happens is we see how our parents have done the role and can unconsciously apply the same rules to our parenting today, unless we challenge the bias.
Sharon is a client and when we peeled back the layers on why she took on so much of the responsibility at home, she had a belief that as a mum, she shouldn’t really be working outside of the home, she should be at home being the homemaker. At a conscious practical level she knew this was ridiculous, she loved her job, she had no qualms about leaving her children to work and we discovered it was this underlying, unconscious belief that caused her to continue taking on the lion’s share of the work without question, even though it was exhausting. By challenging this bias and freeing herself from this unconscious belief, Sharon was able to have the conversations she needed to have with her partner and now feels energized by the outcome, not exhausted.
The reality of both parents working outside of the home brings about a different landscape and requires addressing the unconscious bias in order to thrive. When both parents challenge the unconscious bias the landscape shifts for the benefit of the family and everyone thrives.