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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

 

Housework and the stay at home parent

A semi-scientific study on the effect of housework on the happiness of a homemaker.

Introduction
Materials and Methods
Results
Analysis
Discussion

INTRODUCTION
Several weeks ago, my sister-in-law told me that she thought I liked housework. Later, I thought about her statement and questioned whether or not it was true. I believe she thinks I like housework because I have a clean house. My belief is that while I like a clean house, I dislike the work it takes to make and keep it clean. In general, I also resent the time it takes me to clean the house although I have no idea exactly how much time I spend cleaning.

In this study, I track my chores and keep an inventory of my mood to answer three questions:

  1. Do I enjoy (am I happy) doing housework?
  2. If I do not enjoy (am not happy) doing housework, why?
  3. How much time do I spend doing housework?

I hope that by better understanding my housework habits and moods while cleaning the house, I can become a happy homemaker by avoiding the housecleaning times or chores that put me in a bad mood.

MATERIALS AND METHODS
For seven days (Monday, 4/3/2006 - Sunday, 4/9/2006), I recorded the following information:

  • Chore(s)
  • Time
  • Mood

I recorded the information in a spiral bound notebook kept on my kitchen counter. Each day I started a new page with three columns: Chore(s), Time, Mood.

Under the Chore(s) column, I used a bulleted list to keep track of all chores performed. For the purposes of this experiment, household chores include cleaning, cooking, and miscellaneous work related to the kids, e.g., dressing them, filling juice cups, making snacks. I included changing diapers if the task fell within a group of other chores. Otherwise, I did not bother to record it as a separate task.

Under the Time column, I recorded a start time and an end time for each group of chores performed. I did not record the time spent on any individual chore.

Under the Mood column, I noted my starting mood as well as any change in mood. I used five classifications of mood: happy, indifferent, sad, irritated, angry. I noted if there was a reason for the mood or the change in mood.

RESULTS
Day 1: Monday, 4/3/2006
Time
8:30 - 9:30
60 minutes

Chores

  • Made the bed
  • Picked up playroom
  • Put away guest bedding
  • Put away clean clothes
  • Cleaned bathroom floor
  • Started load of laundry
  • Moved wet load to dryer
  • Made breakfast and juice cups for kids
  • Made coffee and breakfast for myself
  • Cleaned kitchen after breakfast

Mood
Indifferent in the beginning to angry at the end when I realized that I hadn't even had a sip of coffee yet but I had filled four juice cups (two for each kid).

Time
11:45 - 12:05
20 minutes

Chores

  • Made lunch
  • Picked up playroom after playgroup
  • Vacuumed spilled cheerios in hallway and playroom
  • Cleaned kitchen after lunch
  • Unloaded/loaded dishwasher
  • Folded two loads of laundry
  • Started load of laundry
  • Made popcorn for Emily

Mood
Indifferent / Happy
Rejuvenated after conversation with friend at playgroup

Time
2:00 - 2:25
25 minutes

Chores

  • Moved clothes to dryer
  • Put away folded clothes
  • Filled juice cups
  • Picked up spilled popcorn
  • Washed snack dishes

Mood
Indifferent / Angry
While putting away clothes, Emily and Thomas got into my mail, opened a letter that contained photographs, and bent them. Argh.

Time
3:05 - 3:30
25 minutes

Chores

  • Folded and put away last load of laundry
  • Changed poo diaper

Mood
Happy
the kids were behaving and I realized that it's almost time for Mike to get home from work.

Time
4:30 - 5:25
55 minutes

Chores

  • Made dinner
  • Cleaned up art supplies and table for dinner
  • Set table, served food

Mood
Happy
My shift's almost over! The kids are content watching Blue's Clues and I am able to make dinner uninterrupted.

Time
5:35 - 5:50
15 minutes

Chores

  • Cleaned table
  • Did miscellaneous dishes
  • Cleaned sink and stove
  • Cleaned floor under table
  • Started dishwasher

Mood
Happy
Mike did most of the dishes and put the food away. Also he kept the kids busy while I was cleaning the floor.

Time
6:20 - 6:35
15 minutes

Chores

  • Emptied diaper pail
  • Took in garbage can and recycling bins
  • Picked up toys in family room and straightened up couch
  • Picked up kids's rooms
  • Straightened up living room

Mood
Happy
Kids are in the bath, the dishwasher's running, and my chores are done for the day. Hurrah!

Day 2: Tuesday, 4/4/2006
Time
8:00 - 8:45
45 minutes

Chores

  • Made bed
  • Started load of bedding from E & T's beds
  • Got kids dressed
  • Served breakfast of raisins and juice
  • Took out recycling
  • Watered house plants

Mood
Happy / Sad
Rosa was supposed to come at 9 and I was happy getting the house and kids ready for her. Then she called in sick. :(

Time
11:45 - 12:00
15 minutes

Chores

  • Picked up entire tray of silverware that E & T had been playing with earlier.

Mood
Angry
Even though I knew at the time they were playing that I would have to pick it up later, I can't help but feel resentment. When I let my kids do things I don't initially like, I have to work twice as hard later. They play, I pay.

Time
1:45 - 2:15
30 minutes

Chores

  • Made lunch for the kids
  • Cleaned up from lunch
  • Unloaded dishwasher
  • Loaded dishwasher with breakfast and lunch dishes

Mood
Indifferent

Time
6:15 - 6:30
15 minutes

Chores

  • Unloaded dryer
  • Made beds
  • Loaded dishwasher

Mood
Happy
Mike's home!

Time
6:40 - 6:50
10 minutes

Chores

  • Took out kitchen and diaper garbage
  • Straightened up family room and put away toys

Mood
Happy
My (work) day is almost over.

Day 3: Wednesday, 4/5/2006
Time
8:00 - 8:45
45 minutes

Chores

  • Made bed
  • Made coffee and breakfast
  • Cleaned raisins off floor
  • Made second round of waffles
  • Cleaned up from breakfast

Mood
Happy / Irritated
Getting up from eating my breakfast to make another batch of waffles irritated me but both kids were crying (literally) for more food so I felt I had no choice. Being interrupted or being cried at: the situation was unpleasant either way.

Time
9:10 - 9:30
20 minutes

Chores

  • Picked up approx. 100 envelopes of 4 different sizes the kids had scattered all over the floor in my office
  • Changed diapers
  • Got the kids dressed

Mood
Angry
I thought I was enjoying a peaceful uninterrupted time in the bathroom but that was only because the kids were destroying my office. If the kids ever leave me alone, it's because they're in the other room making a mess.

Time
4:00 - 5:00
60 minutes

Chores

  • Emptied dishwasher
  • Loaded dishwasher
  • Filled juice cups (x4)
  • Picked up raisins off floor
  • cleaned off table for dinner
  • Started load of laundry
  • Straightened up and cleaned off counters

Mood
Happy
My (work) day is almost over and tonight I'm taking Emily out to dinner with some mom friends and their kids. I'm looking forward to it.

Time
7:15 - 7:45
30 minutes

Chores

  • Picked up toys and cleaned playroom
  • Took out diapers and garbage
  • Took out recycling
  • Cleaned yet more raisins off floor
  • Put clothes in dryer and started new load
  • Cleaned kitchen

Mood
Happy
Feeling good after dinner with my friends. It's so nice (and easy!) to be out in public with only one kid.

Day 4: Thursday, 4/6/2006
Time
7:35 - 8:45
70 minutes

Chores

  • folded load of clothes and put away
  • Put wet load in dryer
  • Picked up raisins off floor
  • Straightened up couch and replaced dirty afghan
  • Straightened kids's beds
  • Stripped my bed and washed sheets with afghan
  • Changed diapers and dressed kids
  • Made breakfast
  • Cleaned out old food in fridge

Mood
Happy / Indifferent

Time
9:25 - 9:45
20 minutes

Chores

  • Folded dry clothes and put away
  • Loaded and started dishwasher
  • Cleaned kitchen from breakfast

Mood
Happy
Rosa will be here soon and I will get my day off. Plus, I'm meeting friends for coffee and that always lifts my spirits.

Time
4:45 - 5:00
15 minutes

Chores

  • Got dinner ready and served it

Mood
Happy
Rosa made dinner before she left; all I had to do was heat it up.

Time
5:45 - 6:30
45 minutes

Chores

  • Helped Mike clean up kitchen
  • Took out garbage and diapers
  • Cleaned counters, stove, table
  • Vacuumed kitchen and family room
  • Mopped kitchen floor

Mood
Happy / Indifferent
I like a clean floor but I'm not particularly keen on cleaning it.

Day 5: Friday, 4/7/2006
Time
7:15 - 7:45
30 minutes

Chores

  • Made coffee
  • Changed Thomas's diaper
  • Filled 2 juice cups
  • Made breakfast for T: waffle and banana and yogurt
  • Made breakfast for me: hot oat cereal and soy sausages
  • Made breakfast for E: raisins and yogurt
  • Changed Emily's diaper

Mood
Indifferent
Thomas woke up earlier than usual. I'm tired. Emilys woke up later so I had to repeat the chore of making breakfast when she got up.

Time
8:00 - 8:30
30 minutes

Chores

  • Cleaned up from breakfast
  • Loaded and started dishwasher
  • Made bed
  • Cleaned up kids and got them dressed
  • Picked up raisins from floor

Mood
Happy
The chores were planned and weren't interrupting something I was trying to do.

Time
9:00 - 9:15
15 minutes

Chores

  • Vacuumed house
  • Put load of throw rugs in washer

Mood
Happy

Time
3:30 - 5:05
95 minutes

Chores

  • Cleaned playroom and organized toys
  • Separated out baby toys for donation
  • Picked up family room
  • Cleaned table and floor from snacktime
  • Made dinner: stir fry and rice
  • Set table and served dinner

Mood
Indifferent / Happy
Organizing toys is a thankless yet necessary job.

Time
5:30 - 6:30
60 minutes

Chores

  • Emptied dishwasher
  • Cleaned kitchen
  • Loaded dishwasher
  • Took out garbage, recycling, diapers
  • Straightened up family room and picked up toys

Mood
Indifferent / Happy
Chores are all done! TGIF!

Day 6: Saturday, 8/3/2006
Time
9:00 - 9:15
15 minutes

Chores

  • Made myself breakfast
  • Cleaned up kitchen
  • Loaded and started dishwasher
  • Made bed

Mood
Happy
Sun is shining and I'm about to get my hair cut

Time
3:40 - 5:30
130 minutes

Chores

  • Straightened up bedroom
  • Straightened up family room
  • Set table
  • Put away groceries
  • Made dinner for small dinner party we hosted
  • Served dinner

Mood
Irritated / Happy
Thomas is tired and keeps clutching my leg, preventing me from cleaning up. Argh! Once I had fed him two bananas and put on the TV, he left me alone and I was able to continue with making dinner.

Time
7:00 - 7:30
30 minutes

Chores

  • Finished putting away leftovers
  • Finished cleaning the kitchen (Mike started)
  • Hand washed big pots
  • Finished loading then started the dishwasher

Mood
Happy
I enjoyed chatting with Jennie while cleaning up. It's nice to have company when you're doing chores.

Day 7: Sunday, 4/9/2006
Time
7:55 - 8:40
45 minutes

Chores

  • Started load of laundry
  • Picked up family room; straightened up couch
  • Took out diapers from day before
  • Made Thomas's bed
  • Changed Emily's poopie diaper
  • Made coffee
  • Took out garbage and recycling
  • Re-stocked changing areas with diapers
  • Started Target shopping list
  • Put away dry dishes in drainer
  • Emptied dishwasher
  • Changed T
  • Made T breakfast: banana and toast

Mood
Happy / Irritated / Indifferent
While unloading the dishwasher, I realized E & T were quiet. That's because they were in Mike's office eating candy. I had to stop cleaning in order to punish them and clean up spilled candy.

Time
4:15 - 4:35
20 minutes

Chores

  • Put clothes in dryer
  • Put new load in washer
  • Straightened up kitchen
  • Loaded dishwasher
  • Put away Target buys: diapers, wipes, soap, miscellaneous

Mood
Happy
Laundry basket is empty!

Time
6:00 - 6:40
40 minutes

Chores

  • Cleaned up from dinner
  • Folded laundry
  • Straightened family room
  • Took out diapers
  • Vacuumed family room and kitchen
  • Emptied wastepaper baskets throughout house and took out garbage
  • Took out recycling

Mood
Happy
Chores almost over and the whole night of "my time" is ahead of me!

ANALYSIS
I spent an average of 2 hours and 40 minutes each day doing household chores and other chores related to being home with my kids, e.g., making snacks and getting the kids dressed and changing diapers.

I spent a lot of time picking up raisins off the floor. Doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning the kitchen were my main chores.

I was most often happy when performing my household chores. My second most frequent mood was indifference followed by irritation then anger. I was sad only once when doing my chores.

DISCUSSION
To answer my original three questions:
Do I enjoy (am I happy) doing housework?
The data shows that yes, I typically am happy doing housework. If I am not happy, I usually am indifferent. However, my happiness or indifference is only if I am in control of the housework. In other words, if it is a chore of my choosing (regardless of the actual chore), I don't usually mind doing it.

I also am happy or indifferent doing housework if it means that my work day is soon to come to an end.

If I do not enjoy (am not happy) doing housework, why?
I do not enjoy putting out housework fires or being interrupted from reading or eating or going to the bathroom to perform household chores.

Chores related to children misbehaving tend to irritate me more than predetermined chores.

In these situations, I feel someone else is controlling how I spend my time. It's less the actual work that is irritating me or making me angry than the feeling that I am being forced to do something I do not want to do, i.e., the chore is not one of my choosing.

How much time do I spend doing housework?
As noted above in Analysis, I spend an average of 2 hours and 40 minutes per day-- weekend days included--on household and related chores. This actually is less time than I thought.

If you are contemplating staying at home with your children, you can estimate doing a similar amount of daily housework even if you also employ a housecleaning service once a week or once every two weeks. Most of the chores I did during this week can't be outsourced (unless you hire a housekeeper) and must be performed daily.

It is possible you may spend even more time on household chores than I did. I started this study with a clean home. You may need to spend more time getting your home into a state of cleanliness. This study concerns only maintainence chores, with the exception of approximately 60 minutes that I spent organizing toys. It also does not include chores performed outside the house, in the yard or elsewhere.

This study reminded me that my husband does participate in the household work. Even though I did not record what he does as part of this study, he helps clean the kitchen at night and on the weekends. He gives the kids their nightly bath and puts them to bed. He also is a clean person himself. He understands what a laundry hamper is and he uses it regularly. Because he is not a slob or incapacitated physically, my husband does not contribute to my chore list. This makes me happy.

In general, I am happier about my household chore list and I am less resentful of the time I spend doing my chores now that I have taken this inventory of household chores and my mood and analyzed the data. I can conclude that my sister-in-law was right; I like housework.

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