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Health & Parenting

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Dads Who Bond With Kids Help Keep Marriage Strong

Sharing housework also key, study found, as is open communication with spouse


Couples indicated which spouse was generally responsible for completing 20 common household tasks -- or if both or neither of them were responsible. Fathers rated their involvement in their children's lives and mothers noted how involved they felt their husbands were with the kids. Both spouses rated how happy they were with how they divided household tasks and with their marriage.

Men and women differed in how they reported marital quality. For wives, the father-child relationship and father involvement was most important, followed by satisfaction with how the household work was accomplished.

For husbands, satisfaction with the division of family work came first, followed by their wife's feelings about the father-child relationship, and then the degree of involvement the dad had with his children.

For her part, Laurie Gerber, president of Handel Group Life Coaching in New York City, said the study rings true. Women really appreciate getting hands-on help at home, but men don't realize this intuitively because they see things very differently, she said. "If a man wants to get into his wife's good graces he should do a chore," she said. "If a woman wants to get into a man's good graces, she should jump him."

A study published earlier this year in American Sociological Review showed that married men who spend more time doing traditional household tasks reported having less frequent sex than do husbands who stick to more traditional masculine jobs, such as gardening or home repair. While women like getting help, doing too many of the chores may inadvertently turn the husband into more of a helpmate than a lover, the research found.

Rather than basing the choice of chores on traditional roles, Gerber recommends that tasks be divided based on both who cares most about getting the particular job done and who is best at it. "My husband doesn't care if my kids have matching outfits on and I don't care about getting the oil changed," she said. Couples need to sit down and discuss who will be primarily responsible for what. "That stops fights and clears so much air."

For Gerber, it's critical to try not to be influenced by how you were raised, what your culture says you should do or what the gender stereotyping says, but rather, by what you think is right. "Marriage is all about being there for the other person and you work as a team to get the job of the family done," she said.

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