Shared responsibility could lead to bedroom satisfaction. 

By Grace Elkus
Updated August 24, 2015
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What makes this all the more disconcerting is that some of the time pressure experienced by married women, in particular, appears to be self-imposed. For example, in our survey, the majority of women—64 percent—felt sometimes or very often that if they did less around the house, they would feel as if they weren't taking care of it properly. An identical number said the same about the amount of time and effort they expended on parenting. "Women still feel that they are going to be held accountable if the housework and the child care don't get done," says Sayer.In some cases, women may have set unreasonable standards for housekeeping. But the key underlying issue is one of control: We want to hang on to it, no matter what havoc it wreaks on our schedules. Take the 28 percent of married women who say they frequently avoid asking their spouse/partner for help because they don't believe that their partner would do chores the way they would want them done. Experts call this phenomenon "gatekeeping," in which women unwittingly prevent a more equal distribution of labor or even block a husband's attempts to get more involved in housework or child care."Gatekeeping happens when you're in charge of a domain and you don't want to cede the power to someone else," says Sayer. Case in point: A 1999 Journal of Marriage and Family survey of 622 working mothers found that more than one in five could be classified as gate-keepers, and that group of women did five more hours of family work every week than their peers did. What's more, many women refuse any opportunity to outsource that work by hiring someone else to do it. In our survey, 45 percent of respondents said that they would not hire more household help even if they could afford it.
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From participating in adventurous activities to sending explicit text messages, there's no shortage of suggestions for improving sexual satisfaction. But a new study offers a solution specifically for parents: have Dad contribute equally to childcare responsibilities.

Sociologists from Georgia State University in Atlanta analyzed data from 487 heterosexual couples who participated in the 2006 Marital Relationship Study. They found that couples who shared childcare duties equally not only had the highest level of relationship quality, they also had the best—and most active—sex lives.

The study asked questions about childcare responsibilities, the level of conflict in the relationship, sexual frequency, and satisfaction with the frequency. Child care was defined in three dimensions—physical/emotional, interactive, and passive (supervising and monitoring)—and four tasks were considered, including who was responsible for making the rules, who enforced the rules and handed out punishment, who praised the children, and who played with the children. The results of the study, which will be presented at a meeting of the American Sociological Association, were grouped by how the children were cared for: mostly by the mother, mostly by the father, or by both parents equally.

Couples in which the woman took on most of the child care responsibilities—which made up more than 60 percent of those surveyed—fared the worst in terms of sexual and relationship satisfaction.

“One of the most important findings is that the only childcare arrangement that appears really problematic for the quality of both a couple’s relationship and sex life is when the woman does most or all of the childcare,” study leader Daniel L. Carlson said in a statement.

Although men reported the lowest satisfaction with their sex lives when they took on the majority of the responsibilities, that's when women reported the highest sexual satisfaction—and relationship quality, sexual frequency, and satisfaction with the frequency were just as high for both partners as with the egalitarian arrangements. The significance? There's little to no downside to men being largely responsible for childcare, Carlson said.

"We conclude that being an engaged father is very important to men," he said in a statement. "If it weren't, we wouldn't see such a high level of satisfaction. It suggests that father engagement and sharing childcare with one's partner is important to both sexes."