Professor Melissa Milkie on Canadian fathers and housework and child care

Professor Melissa Milkie recently co-wrote an article in The Conversation discussing the shift in housework amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her co-investigators have found that fathers have begun to do a greater share of the housework and complete more parental tasks at home than they had done before the pandemic.

Professor Melissa Milkie is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities on the UT Mississauga (UTM) campus. She is the Chair of the Tri-Campus Graduate Department. Her research focuses on culture, the work-family interface, and mental health.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below. The full story is available on the website here.

Canadian dads are doing more at home than before the coronavirus pandemic

July 21, 2020 2.56pm EDT

Authors: Kevin Shafer / Casey Scheibling /

Over the past few months, everyday housework, like cooking and washing dishes, has multiplied and most parents have become responsible for teaching their kids. Given the uneven distribution of these tasks before the pandemic, much of this extra work has fallen squarely on mothers.

Our work looks at trends in housework and child care during the early stages of the pandemic in Canada as one way to measure how it might disproportionately harm women.

Housework and child care are important markers of equity for a few reasons. Family responsibilities often default to mothers, negatively impacting their career and economic opportunities. Women’s physical and mental health is linked to how equally partners share family-related tasks. Romantic relationship quality and stability are also tied to perceptions of equity in housework and child care.

Housework and child care

We surveyed nearly 1,250 Canadian mothers and fathers about family and work arrangements before and during the pandemic. Because of the substantial gender gaps in housework and child care before COVID-19, we looked at the perception of how much domestic work Canadian fathers were doing immediately before the pandemic in May 2020, about a month and a half after public health orders took effect.

When it came to preparing meals, cleaning and shopping for essentials, a small proportion of men were perceived as reducing their portion, most did about the same and a sizeable minority increased their share. Indeed, in the central tasks of preparing meals, doing dishes and housecleaning, about twice as many men increased their share as decreased it…

…Persistent inequality in domestic labour has many sources — all of which could be amplified during the pandemic. Gender pay gaps, particularly among parents, often cause families to privilege the careers of fathers over mothers. Societal expectations and the lack of policy supports, like access to affordable child care, pressure many women to reduce their hours or quit working in order to care for young children.

Read the full article…