Your mother doesn’t work here



My last post about Jeff Sessions hand washing his oatmeal bowl at work leads nicely into a topic I’ve been wanting to do a post about for a while now: the politics of dishes in the break room.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen a sign along the lines of:

YOUR MOTHER doesn’t work here.
Please clean up after yourself.

A couple thoughts. Continue reading

If the Attorney General of the United States can wash his oatmeal bowl right after he uses it, your colleagues probably can, too



An article last week in the New York Times, Justice Dept., Under Siege From Trump, Plows Ahead With His Agenda, had this opening paragraph:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is at the Justice Department by 6:15 a.m., when he exercises on a treadmill near his fifth-floor office, showers in an adjoining bathroom, microwaves instant oatmeal and hand-washes the bowl, then prepares for a daily 8:20 a.m. meeting with his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein. [Emphasis mine, naturally]

Did you catch that? He doesn’t leave it to “soak” and then forget about it for days. He doesn’t use a new bowl each day, let them pile up and then wash them all at the end of the week (something you can make an argument for doing at home). He doesn’t just assume if he leaves it there someone else (Rosenstein?) will take care of it. (All of this is assuming the description of his morning routine is correct, obviously).


Sign an anonymous colleague posted in the break room.

In my last job, we had a break room we shared with another division. Often it included an oatmeal bowl soaking and forgotten about for days. I often imagined such a colleague feeling like they were “super busy” and would get back the dishes in the sink “soon.”

Well, The Attorney General is pretty busy—turning back the clock on decades of social progress is a lot of work, after all. So the next time you have a colleague who is “too busy” to clean up themselves you can throw this example in their face. It might backfire though, providing a point of pride in being the opposite of Sessions… So maybe that’s a bad idea and you should just hang up a sign like the one pictured.

On a related note, last week I finished Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, which had some interesting discussions of forming a personal friendship with Sessions but also strongly opposing his nomination.

When leaving dishes in the sink makes sense



I’ve been thinking about how there are times when it makes sense to leave the dishes in the sink.


A friend, who lives alone, has a system of letting them pile up for a few days and then washing them all at once. This is an example of the productivity tip of batching tasks.

Even if it makes sense rationally, I have a really hard time doing it. I just find the dishes distracting and really want to have them taken care of before I move on to other, bigger things.

Gretchen Rubin describes this as “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” (On her podcast she shortens it to “outer order, inner calm.”)  That principle is definitely true for me.

Continue reading

The benefits of household tasks that multiple people can do (like dishes)


, , ,

In my post from two weeks ago I discussed the idea of cross-training for domestic labor. (This reminds me, I still haven’t taken the actions I assigned myself at the end of the post…).

Another reason we cross-train in the workplace is so that it’s possible to reallocate tasks between members of a team. So if a colleague has too much on their plate, another can take up something they both know how to do.

Because dishes are a fairly simple task, they can work that way, too. If a heterosexual couple has a new baby, Dad can’t do half the breastfeeding, but he can try to partially compensate by doing the dishes (and lots of other work, too). Or let’s say one person has to prepare for an important meeting or presentation, or grade a huge pile of exams., or whatever. Other members of the household may not have the skills and knowledge to help with those tasks, but they can do the dishes even if it wouldn’t normally be their turn.

Both at home and in the workplace, having someone offer to do something for you has benefits beyond the time it frees up; it can also raise the spirits of the person receiving the help, giving them the comfort of knowing that they’re not alone.

I think the key, though, is it needs to be a two-way street. Maybe next week the member of the household who was offering to do extra work will be the one who is overwhelmed and needs help.

And all of that requires, you guessed it, negotiation and coordination.

How to raise a feminist son


I wanted to highlight a good illustrated piece from last month called How to Raise a Feminist Son. The piece synthesizes what the author heard from “neuroscientists, economists, psychologists and other.” The whole thing is great, but here are two about domestic labor I want to highlight.

Teach him to take care of himself


Teach him to take care of others


Of course one of the ways they learn these things is by something earlier on the list: “Give him role models.” I’m grateful to my parents for all they taught me.

The article was written by Claire Cain Miller and illustrated by Agnes Lee.

Negotiation, cross-training, and domestic labor


, , , ,




One economic perspective on the gendered division of labor is as a form of specialization. I’ll eventually get into those arguments in greater detail, but the basic idea is if each partner specializes in the things that they’re better at, this leads to greater efficiency—more done in less time.

There are a number of responses to this argument, but today I want to look at another argument for a division of labor: you don’t have to keep negotiating. If both partners—or all the roommates—are sometimes responsible for a task, then there will need to be regular conversations about who is doing a task this time. So now there’s a negotiation that needs to happen before the work can even start. Is this meta-work: work about work?

“Okay, so you’ll get the groceries this week, but first we’ll need to meal plan. Since you’re doing the grocery shopping I’ll clean the bathrooms. Are you cool with mowing the lawn?” And so forth. Continue reading

This blog needs a schedule



One common piece of blogging advice is to establish a schedule and stick with it. This keeps posts coming at a steady rate and lets readers know what to expect. Deadlines, even arbitrary ones, can also make writers more productive.

For a while now, the schedule in my head has been a substantive post every Wednesday. I’ve been hit-and-miss about that, but hopefully the accountability of putting the schedule in writing will help me be more consistent.

Authors of “Is Anyone Doing the Housework?” reflect on more recent data, how their views changed


, , , , , ,

My previous post summarized the results in Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor, finally wrapping up the series of blog posts looking at that article.

That article was published in 2000, with the most recent data point in 1995. So what’s changed since then? In 2012 they wrote a brief (9 pages) reflection Housework: Who Did, Does or Will Do It, and How Much Does It Matter? for the 90th anniversary of the journal Social Forces. Unlike most academic journal articles, it’s not gated, and I highly recommend reading the entire thing if you’re interested in the topic. Continue reading

Summary of results in “Is Anyone Doing the Housework?”


, , , ,

Over the past couple months, I’ve been writing some posts looking at quantitative research on the gendered division of domestic labor, specifically the article Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor by Suzanne M. Bianchi and colleagues.

I started by looking at the abstract, which summarized the major finding that women cut the amount of housework they do almost in half between the 1965 and 1995 and men almost doubled how much they do. Here’s the graph from the article:


Continue reading

Reading lists added to site



I’ve created two static pages, both under the Reading menu, above. The books and articles list is for published books and peer-reviewed research articles. The online articles list is for popular articles on places like Huffington Post or NPR.

Right now, much of it is material I’ve mentioned in blog posts. The lists also include things I’d like to blog about in the future. They will also include things I want to read, especially the books and articles list.

They’ll keep growing as I add things to them. At some point they’ll probably get long enough that I’ll have to break them down into categories.