Earlier this year, when most of us spent a couple months sheltering in our homes to avoid spreading Covid-19, the pace of daily home life changed dramatically. Families who were used to spending early mornings and longer evenings together were suddenly together all the time. All meals were prepared and eaten at home. Housework became both more urgent and more involved. And parents were forced to juggle their own workdays (for those who could work from home) with caring for their kids.

Covid-19 has caused a lot of problems, to be sure, but it also seems to be highlighting and exacerbating one issue that is a leading cause of divorce: Unequal domestic responsibilities between women and men.

Women file for divorce more often

When heterosexual couples in the U.S. file for divorce, it is most often initiated by the woman. Many who have studied the matter believe it has to do with the imbalance of responsibility that men often take for granted. Even in households where both spouses work, women pick up more slack at home. On average, women spend one more hour per day than men on childcare and housework duties. Over the course of a week, that is like spending six days at work instead of five.

When women joined the workforce starting largely in the 1970s, the housework gap began to narrow. But it stopped narrowing in the 1980s and hasn’t gotten any smaller since then.

Female stress and male entitlement can be a bad mix

In a recent Psychology Today article, the author discussed the gender disparities in housework and childcare. Not only does this add more stress to wives and mothers, it also seems especially unfair because men often take these disparities for granted. It is not overt or conscious sexism, per se. Rather, it is likely behavior that is learned and ingrained from a young age. For as much progress as American society has made, the concept of gender roles hasn’t gone away.

The lesson here, according to the author, is that men can potentially save their marriages and create more marital harmony by working to balance the household and childcare responsibilities with their wives. This won’t prevent marital strife in all cases, but it certainly couldn’t hurt things, either.

Is divorce in your future?

The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the gender gap in household and childcare responsibilities, and that may partially explain the rising divorce rates in response to Covid-19 and stay-at-home orders. But if you have decided to divorce, it ultimately doesn’t matter what the reasons for it may be. Instead, it’s time to focus on getting through the process smoothly with the help of an experienced family law attorney.