The Chore app aims to make mothers’ lives easier. They usually don’t.

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Some applications mimic enterprise software. Michael Perry, the founder of the Maple app, says his apps — inspired by workplace tools like Slack and Trello — put tasks in a “garbage dump” where family members Families can select them via chat without an authorized person.

Other approaches draw inspiration from research on domestic inequality. Rachel Drapper, a research associate at Harvard Business School, has been working to integrate research on how couples can more successfully divide housework into an upcoming app, FairShare. “A lot of the solutions are targeting women, and we think that is inaccurate,” she said. Drapper’s solution – still just a prototype – is to collect data from the community on how households divide their work and use the results to inform other households about what effective and what not.

The trouble is that these apps face an extremely difficult task in trying to subvert deeply ingrained social norms – girls in the kitchen with their mothers, boys playing with their fathers. Such expectations are part of what causes women in heterosexual couples to shoulder a lot of the housework (gay couples are often more equal). Once women become mothers, the imbalance worsens.

However, the problem is not if Men can play an equal role in housework but how. It is not surprising that men in more egalitarian cultures are much more equitable. And in those places, if neither partner has the time or energy, the government can come to their aid. In Sweden, top The EU Gender Equality Index, the state pays half the bill to hire household chores like laundry and housecleaning — meaning more busy families can afford to do this. That will help with women’s earning potential. In Belgium, a similar state subsidy for outsourced work led to a significant increase in women’s employment.

In the United States, however, many women – moms or not – are at a time of crisis, with few ways to get a safety net like child care or affordable health care. affordable or subsidized.


Part of the reason apps can have a hard time offloading women’s housework is that much of the labor that women do is not physical, but mental and emotional. Allison Daminger, a graduate student in sociology at Harvard, says the burden still falls largely on women in anticipating the needs of those around them and making day-to-day decisions on behalf of the family. These tasks might include researching the best option for a couch or remembering that it’s time to schedule a child’s visit to the dentist. It’s time-consuming work, even if it’s mostly hidden from others.

The Chore app design frequently adds to the status quo: that women are often the ones who delegate household chores. “I can’t think of time [in my research] When a man makes a list for his wife, but I can think of several instances where the wife makes lists for her husband,” Daminger said.

Jaclyn Wong, assistant professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina, is more than an expert on the role of gender expectations in couples’ motivation. She’s also testing her own app, a work scheduler that tries to avoid the gender traps — woman cooking, man handling yard work — by fully dividing up the chores. household chores for both partners. It also aims to write down exactly what each one is doing.

Chapman Clark says making invisible labor visible in this way is a huge benefit to using her housework app. “It helps me recognize when my husband is contributing, and it helps him realize that there are a lot of other household chores besides sweeping, vacuuming, cooking and washing dishes,” she says.

But not everyone likes that disparity between a couple’s contributions. Wong’s research indicates that this is an uphill battle: “There is resistance. People become defensive when they are informed of the ways they are not equal partners,” she notes. The risk is that couples may abandon an app for that reason even if it might help them in the long run.

While the apps are easy to access and use, they seem to only reflect gender inequality within the family. In fact, they can sour relationships if they’re seen as a “management tool” rather than a “collaborative tool,” says Kate Mangino, author of an upcoming book. . Equal partneron how to improve gender equality in the household.

“One of the ways we defend gender inequality is ‘She’s the manager, and I’m the helper’, interpreting how a husband feels,” says Mangino. It creates a strangely powerful dynamic that applications only reinforce.

The most important thing for an app’s success is the acquisition of partners, who underperform and that cannot be guaranteed. “App management is still considered a woman’s job,” says Wong. “We have developed these standards so that women and mothers have the final say.”

In the end, a trifling app can only do so much to make a partner uninvited, and it can’t undo centuries of sexism. It can help make what’s around the house more visible to whoever does what’s around the house, but it can’t change the situation unless both members of a couple have needs to change — and that’s still the case. is the biggest barrier.

“I am often approached by [chore app] and the feedback I almost always give is, ‘How are you going to ensure male participation?’ “That’s the biggest hurdle, and I don’t know anyone who’s broken that,” said Daminger.

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