There are many studies showing that women do more housework than men. Even when both husband and wife are working full time, as Arlie Hochschild famously demonstrated, women still do more of the "second shift" of cooking and cleaning and childcare.
Other studies have shown that husbands and fathers do more than their fathers did. In particular, many fathers today are much more involved in raising their children than was true in previous generations. Some more nuanced studies have further shown that in the widget-laden middle-class home, there is just less housework to do than there used to be.
There is a set of chores that men as still more likely to do – yard work, household and car maintenance, and the outside tasks in general. However, women are more likely to do the daily stuff, while men's household jobs are occasional. The equation is not quite balanced. Men come off looking like slackers in these studies, which bothers me.
Then I had a minor epiphany. There is another important category of housework that men do: protection. This includes the daily tasks of making sure the doors are locked, the longer-term upkeep of smoke detectors and floodlights, and dealing with the rarer dangers like termites and foundation cracks. Most especially, men get to deal with the Scary Noise in the Night. Many other tasks get swapped back and forth across gender lines, but in my experience, this one falls largely to husbands and fathers.
I find that I routinely engage in continuous threat assessment, especially when I am with my wife and kids. I automatically size up the dark street, the unfamiliar guy, the strange dog – anything that might endanger my family. Like most men, I don't like to sit with my back to the door or the crowd in a public place, which I believe comes from the same instinct.
Our lovely town is a safe place to live, but even here there are dangers. And, in a larger sense, providing the protection to society which makes our town safe, and (for the most part) makes our nation safe, too, is overwhelmingly the work of men.
So when we are making our accounts of housework, let's be sure to include protection as one of the valuable tasks of household life. I think that will go some way to balancing the books.