Even When Both Parents Have The Same Job, Moms Still Take On More Parenting Duties, Study Finds

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Despite all of the progress made for women in the workplace, there's still a lot to be desired. One argument, for example, from people who don't believe in the gender wage gap is that women just aren't staying in the workforce long enough to rise to the top of their profession. Sadly, they're sort of right. In fact, according to a new study, even when both parents have the same exact job, moms still take on more parenting duties and housework than their male counterpart.

The study looked specifically at households in which both parents were physicians and then had children. Senior study author Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston told Reuters that before the couples had kids, both the man and woman worked similar hours. Then something drastic happened — and it's not just the amount of diapers new parents go through.

Jena told Reuters: “With the arrival of children, female physicians reduce their work hours by nearly 20 percent, or ten hours, per week. Male physicians don’t reduce their hours at all.” Yes, that's right: Men didn't change anything at all about their schedule, while the women scale back significantly throughout their child's life.

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For the study, the researchers looked at U.S. Census Bureau data of physician families. They excluded same sex couples since they wanted to study gender differences and they also excluded parents of newborns, since they didn't want any temporary leave or reduced hours to take care of a newborn to affect the results.

So, essentially, the researchers were talking about families in which both children are somewhat grown — which means anyone could put together a bagged lunch or drop someone off at day care for the children. If, of course, that was how things went.

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Both parents in the married couples were about the same age; The women were an average 38 years old, while the men were an average 39 years old. For couples without kids, the men worked about 57 hours a week and the women worked 52 hours.


But compared to women without children, mothers of toddlers worked 41.5 hours, which is about 10 fewer hours per week. Whereas men without children and men with kids worked about the same. (The men with children worked two hours less than the men without, but it wasn't significant enough to not be a coincidence, the study found.)

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As children in these two-physician homes got older, the lag between women with children and those without got bigger. For the men, there continued to be no difference at all.

So what does this all mean? The researchers have a few conclusions. One is that familial and professional roles are "highly socialized," Jena told Reuters.

Essentially, it's the McDreamy-Effect, which is something I just made up based on a Grey's Anatomy plot-line. On the hit medical TV show, Meredith Grey, a surgeon, and her husband, another surgeon have three kids. Eventually, her career starts to lag because it is just assumed that his job as a surgeon is more important, as she runs around taking care of the kids and trying to keep up with childless, female peers.

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The researchers also think that the difference could be for reasons besides this kind of socialization, but the notion that women need to parent more than men plays into all of them. There's the chance that women are simply getting more done in less time. Doing it all to have it all, so to speak. It could also be that the men have more administrative positions or on boards or teach in universities, since other research shows that in the medical world, those positions are often not even open to women.

Either way, it stinks. Unless all of these female physicians just went to medical school to not have a medical career, which seems sort of unlikely. Having a career and having a child shouldn't be mutually exclusive for women — especially married women with equally competent and able partners. Having children is a choice couples make together, so there's no reason that the consequences of that decision shouldn't be split as evenly as possible.

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