Fran Deutsch on Work and Family in WSJ

Posted: March 1, 2007

In the Wall Street Journal's"Work & Family Mailbox" section by Sue Shellenbarger, professor of psychology and education Fran Deutsch helped answer a reader's question about the rights of a household's primary breadwinner.

The reader asked, "My paid-work hours as a corporate manager are longer than those of my wife, who is a teacher, and last year I made $2 for every $1 she earned. Although she does more housework, I help out a lot, chauffeuring the kids, grocery shopping, and making lunches. Am I entitled to any more free time because I bring home a bigger share of the bacon?"

Shellenbarger replied: "Every couple is unique. However, running a marriage on market principles can be a recipe for resentment. Certainly, you deserve appreciation for carrying the primary bread-winning burden. And consciously or not, many couples' housework setups are influenced by paycheck size. Research shows that on average, the larger a wife's contribution to household income, the more housework help she gets from her husband, says Francine Deutsch, a psychology professor at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass. If you aren't available at home, it probably isn't reasonable to expect you to shoulder a 50-50 housework share, she says.

"But I see three potential arguments against using your paycheck to justify more free time at home. First, it devalues the difficult work required to maintain a home and raise children. Second, your wife's support at home probably frees you to put in long hours at work. And third, your wife, too, no doubt puts in long hours outside the classroom, preparing lessons, taking professional training, and so on. 'Both partners' time should be equally honored, in my view, regardless of how the marketplace values their paid work,' says Dr. Deutsch, author of Halving It All, a book on shared parenting."

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Fran Deutsch - Faculty Profile