How to make this Valentine’s Day special

14 February 2023
Happy Valentines Day!!” by Darwin Bell is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Stuck for something to do or give your partner this Valentine’s Day? Instead of blowing your budget on a one-off grand gesture, try this. Show your partner how much you love and value them by making today the day you critically assess your household division of labour – and commit to equalling things out as much as possible. 

Research has consistently shown that the distribution of housework between women and men in the family is unbalanced (Brandth & Kvande, 1998). Time-use surveys reveal persistent gender gaps in time spent on childcare and household tasks, even though these are narrowing – and substantially since pre-pandemic (Burgess et al, 2022). Feeling disproportionately responsible for household management is associated with strains on mothers’ personal well-being as well as lower satisfaction with the relationship [Ciciolla & Luthar, 2019], making them more likely to end unsatisfying partnerships [Frisco & Willians, 2016]. 

Breaking this mould isn’t only a positive action for your relationship, and the harmony of the family unit– it also models and encourages future gender equality for your children. A recent Dutch study found that fathers tend to take up more domestic tasks if their own fathers used to do domestic chores, with fathers serving as a strong example for their children (both sons and daughters) [Nikkelen & de Blécourt, 2017].

It may not be as sexy as a fancy dinner out and a big bunch of flowers, but working towards a more equitable split of household and care work will strengthen your partnership, reduce the likelihood of psychological distress for both you and your partner [Harryson et al, 2012], and set a good example for your children. What’s not to love?


1 Brandth, B. and Kvande, E. “Masculinity and Child Care: The Reconstruction of Fathering” The Sociological Review (1998) vol.46 (2)

2 Burgess, A., Goldman, R. and Davies, J. (2022) Closing the Gap: UK working fathers’ and mothers’ use of time 2014-22 London: Fatherhood Institute.

3 Ciciolla, L. and Luthar, S. “Invisible Household Labor and Ramifications for Adjustment: Mothers as Captains of Households” Sex Roles (2019) vol. 81

4 Frisco, M. and Willians, K. “Perceived Housework Equity, Marital Happiness, and Divorce in Dual-Earner Households” Journal of Family Issues (2016) vol. 24 (1)

5 Nikkelen, S. and de Blécourt, K. Images of Fatherhood [English summary] Utrecht: Rutgers, 2017

6 Harryson, L., Novo, M. and Hammarström, A. “Is gender inequality in the domestic sphere associated with psychological distress among women and men? Results from the Northern Swedish Cohort” Journal of Epidemiol Community Health (2012) vol. 66 (3) 

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