The latest numbers on chore sharing in marriage paint a hopeful narrative for Millennial marriages. According to a 2016 study conducted at Georgia State University, married couples are far happier about their sex lives when they split the household duties—having more and better sex. And believe it or not, it’s Millennial men who are driving this change.
This data presents a stark contrast to a study that lit up the front page of the New York Times in 2012, where it found that couples who share chores and household duties saw a decrease in the frequency of sex, presenting a lackluster glimpse into modern married life. The researchers speculated that this might be caused by the fact that gender differentiation plays a large part in sexual arousal, and watching men vacuum or sweep was a turnoff for both parties.
The key difference between these two studies is that the earlier study only included data collected from 1996, meaning that all of the couples who participated were considered either Baby Boomers or Generation X. The 2016 study focused on data collected in 2006 from couples under 45, meaning the majority of the couples were born in the 1970s and eighties. The fact of the matter is, our generation has a very different idea of what is and is not sexy.
A quick glance at our culture might lead you to assume that the easy explanation for this is that Millennials (people born between 1980 and 1997) have thrown the notion of gender out the window along with the flip phone. But a closer look at the data shows us that this is simply not the case.
Contrary to expectations, Millennials are actually much more likely than the previous generation to embrace traditional gender roles when it comes to establishing a primary breadwinner and a primary childcare parent. Simultaneously, there is also a rise in mothers staying at home with the kids (although, part of that reason might be due to the recent astronomical increase in the cost of childcare).
So what could be the reason for the shift in perspective? More Millennial men want more time at home.
Millennial men are much more interested in participating at home than men from previous generations.
One of the most startling statistics concerns Millennial men who become fathers and reveals a fascinating fact about their happiness both in work and at home. According to reports, young dads actually are far happier when they share household responsibilities with their spouse.
This is an extremely interesting find given the fact that Millennials have abysmally low interest in marriage and having children—and are also having less sex in general than any generation in sixty years.
Nevertheless, among Millennial men who do get married and especially those that do have children, a desire for more time at home and an eagerness to wholly participate in home life is increasing. More modern men are seeking work policies that make sharing childcare responsibilities easier. Benefits that companies increase to lure in more women—such as flex schedules, paid parental leave, and teleworking options—are also high on the list for employers looking to attract talent from young fathers, too.
This doesn’t mean that most men are stepping back from a primary breadwinner role, but it does mean that they also see parenting and work in the home as something that gives them more satisfaction in life. Perhaps more purpose? More connection to their loved ones?
As a married Millennial myself, this attitude shift plays a large role in what enables my husband and me to share responsibilities at home and in parenting. He works a flex schedule that allows him to go to work super early so he can leave earlier, which allows him to watch our daughter while I work part time in the afternoons. He also enjoys grocery shopping, cooking, and meal planning—so he picks up that task for our family to help reduce the number of chores that fall on my plate. And unlike many men in generations past, he certainly doesn’t think cooking is a mark against his masculinity.
With a new focus on teamwork and companionship, there’s more intimacy. (bada bing, bada boom)
So what does this change in the Millennial man’s view of the home have to do with sex?
While the numbers can only tell us so much, there is substantial evidence that what is different now is that men are the driving force behind a more egalitarian approach to household duties and that many women aren’t bothered by the vision of their guy with a broom.
After all, what’s more attractive—a husband unloading the dishwasher because he views the home as “our” responsibility or the husband who unloads the dishwasher because he wants something in exchange for helping her out with “her” chore?
As a test, I asked my husband, who was cooking dinner at the time, “Have you ever felt like you are doing a woman’s job?”
He looked at me as if I’d had a little too much wine while waiting for my dinner and then laughed and said: “I like food too much to care about who cooks it.”
When couples stop looking at chores as his or hers, they can focus on building a family and a home together, choosing roles that fit their unique marriage—while at the same time maintaining a deep respect for their natural differences as men and women.
Mutual respect, support, and a sense of teamwork when it comes to home life and parenting? It’s no wonder there’s more sex.