Why do married mothers choose to do all house tasks? Re-examining feminist agenda and its implications for therapy

Ofrit Shapira-Berman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Allowing women to choose their way of living has been one of the Women's Liberation Movement's greatest struggles throughout the last century. Choice has always been considered one of humanity's basic rights, although often forbidden for women. The political, social, and economical changes have broadened women's possibilities. It seems as if ‘diversity rules’ and modern women can choose to pursue a career, work half-time, or to dedicate themselves, fully, to motherhood. But as much as choice is basic to human rights ideology and to the concept of gender equality, it has not been empirically studied. Are modern women's and men's allocation of tasks, time and energy, a matter of choice? Do modern married couples feel that their way of living is, actually, an act of choice? Ninety-two Israeli couples participated in the present study. They were asked to report their task allocation and then to report the degree of ‘choice’ they felt they had as to each task. To simplify the analysis of the data, tasks were divided into five main areas of family-life: ‘employment,’ ‘childcare,’ ‘housekeeping,’ ‘emotional expression,’ and ‘social activities.’ The most important finding of this study was that the sense of free choice was not contingent on an equal allocation of marital functions. Findings also indicated that Israeli couples still lead a rather traditionalthat is, unequal-lifestyle. Both the men and women reported that the wives performed a greater proportion of the housework, childcare, and social activities than did their husbands, and the husbands a greater proportion of the paid work. Yet both the men and women reported a moderate sense of free choice and, contrary to prior expectations, wives reported a greatersense of free choice than their husbands.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)51-70
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Feminist Family Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2 Aug 2005


  • Choice
  • Emotional work
  • Feminist couple therapy
  • Feminist family therapy
  • Feminist research
  • Gender
  • Home and work balance
  • Marital egalitarianism
  • Parenting
  • Second shift
  • Task allocation
  • Work and family


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