Progress? Dads pick up a half hour of daily chores over 30 years: StatsCan study

Canadian dads say they do about 2.5 hours of housework per day, compared to two hours in 1986. Mom still does three hours worth of chores - whether or not she is also working.
Canadian dads say they do about 2.5 hours of housework per day, compared to two hours in 1986. Mom still does three hours worth of chores - whether or not she is also working. Andie Mills/Getty Images

Canadian fathers are doing more around the house, but the division of domestic labour and child-care duties is still far from 50-50, a new study from Statistics Canada reveals.

Dads have picked up less than half hour worth of routine tasks since 1986, going from two hours to almost two-and-a-half hours per day. But moms are still devoting three hours per day to taking care of the home on average.

The survey, which looks at opposite- and same-sex couples with children under 17, found that just over 75 per cent of fathers were performing some form of housework in 2015, up from around half 30 years ago. And about half of dads are now helping out with the kids, compared to a third in 1986.

Still, mom continues to bear the brunt of both house chores and child care, in most cases, according to the data. In 2015, a whopping 93 per cent of Canadian mothers reported doing household work and 66 per cent said they provided child care. Those percentages have stayed roughly the same over the past three decades.

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Dad likes to cook

Dads who help around the house are most likely to be the family chef — or at least putter around the stove once in a while — the study suggests.

Meal preparation was “one of the key factors” that pushed up fathers’ housework participation rate overall, according to StatsCan. Nearly 60 per cent of Canadian dads are now somehow involved in making breakfast, lunch or dinner, compared to less than 30 per cent in 1986.

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Still, women are doing the lion’s share of work around the house regardless of how long they spend at work, the data shows.

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Child rearing still mostly up to mom

Compared to household duties, progress in splitting up child care has been smaller. Moms still provide two-thirds of the time spent caring for children, despite the fact that now about half of dads say they are involved in anything from changing diapers to helping with homework.

Here, too, mom is likely to pick up most of the load regardless of how much time she spends at the office. In fact, mothers who work for eight hours a day at a paid job are more likely to provide child care than dads who didn’t work at all during the day (60 per cent versus 50 per cent), StatsCan noted.

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Quebec dads do the most, fathers in the Prairies the least

Quebec takes the crown for the province with the most progressive division of labour within the home, according to the study. Some 40 per cent of fathers in Quebec reported doing at least one house chore per day, compared to only a quarter of dads in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

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Mom is still the family manager

When it comes sharing the burden of running the household, Canadian dads are increasingly stepping up to the plate — quite literally — the data suggests.

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But moms continue to be the managers of family life in most cases, experts say.

While dad may be cooking and doing groceries, it is generally mom who comes up with the meal plan and grocery list. And that goes for researching things like schools and extracurricular activities and keeping track of doctors’ appointments and when the toilet paper is about to run out.

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Planning and managing are non-stop mental work that can infringe on women’s ability to focus at work or truly relax at home, according to Allyson Downey, author of Here’s the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood.

That’s why she advises couples eager to split housework and child care equally to divide the load by responsibilities, not chores.

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Under Downey’s method, the to-do list no longer reads “cooking,” but “feeding the family.” And that ranges from googling meal ideas to washing the dishes.