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In Tough Times, Jobless Men Embrace Housework
Date:8/23/2011

hom they shared a household, and all but one lived in the Chicago area.

Myers said that while the study authors understood their research wasn't representative of the entire United States, it was intriguing to learn that the men in their sample held no animosity toward their working partners, instead voicing gratitude that the women were employed and supporting them.

Comments from participants ranged from, "It's a blessing that my wife works and makes good money. If I was living on my own, I would be in serious trouble," to "If I was really stressed out and we weren't making a lot of money [from his wife's salary], I think I'd just be a wreck."

Still, many of the men expressed deep shame over having lost their jobs, and Myers said it was clear they struggled with losing the power and sense of self-worth that comes from employment. Rather than shunning housework in response to their job loss, however, some began doing more in hopes their domestic contribution would make up for their lost wages and the increased burden on their partners.

Myers said her colleagues hope to eventually interview hundreds of men in similar circumstances, and possibly women as well. She called the results a "silver lining" during a bleak economic period.

"It was kind of a nice surprise," she said. "This recession is going on much longer than anyone thought. A lot of these guys will find jobs -- probably with less money and authority. We'll see if their coping mechanisms change."

Nancy Naples, a professor of sociology and women's studies at University of Connecticut, said the study reminded her of research she undertook in the 1980s during the Iowa farm crisis that explored how men's gender dynamics changed in response to employment status.

"Men had to do a lot of that [domestic] work and think about how they understood their relationship to the breadwinner role when they weren't technically the breadwinner," said Naples, also director of the women'
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