There is a significant difference in men and women's perception of who does the majority of domestic labour in opposite-sex couples with children, according to a new survey.

While the majority of participants agree that men and women should do equal shares of childcare and housework, only 20 per cent of women think this actually happens, compared to 40 per cent of men who said domestic labour was split equally.

Yet over one third of women say that their partner sharing the childcare and domestic load us the one thing that would make the biggest difference to their overall happiness.

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The figures come from a survey conducted by parenting site Netmums, which spoke to 2,000 parents about the division of labour in their household.

Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of women said they still do the lion's share of the childcare and housework, regardless of working hours or patterns.

“The data speaks for itself,” said Annie O’Leary, Netmums editor-in-chief.

“That’s a lot of women sharing what can, at times, be an almost unbearable burden." 

She added that the issue was often the cause of upset at many of the company's focus groups, stating: "nothing else that was discussed generated as much emotion.”

O’Leary explained that the discrepancy between what men and women believe in terms of household split was likely the product of “centuries of parenting that has seen men take a backseat and women shoulder the burden”.

“Yes, dads today are doing more today but – clearly – it’s only a fraction of what’s required. So we all still have a long way to go,” she added.

While O’Leary acknowledged that there is no quick fix when it comes to addressing the gender imbalance at home, she said that Netmums’ research was a “significant first step” and called on employers to allow mothers and fathers the freedom to parent equally.

“Initiatives like shared parental leave are providing a framework for people to co-parent in a way that we’ve never been able to before, but we need to make sure the world of work plays ball and doesn’t penalise parents for time taken,” O’Leary. Said.

“And we still need to win the unequal pay battle, which still means most families can’t afford for a dad to take as much time off as a mum.”

O’Leary added that more visible and varied examples of family life could also help after the Netmums survey found an overwhelming majority of parents (77 per cent) said they did not feel adequately represented in the media. This was particularly true of non-white families, or those where parents were not married.

Despite the need for more progress, O’Leary highlighted that the findings show both mothers and fathers are championing parenting as a role that should be shared with 67 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women agreeing that parenting responsibilities shouldn’t be split on gender lines.

“This is something to be celebrated,” O’Leary said.

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“I very much doubt those numbers would have been achieved had we asked the same question 20 years ago. It’s a great sign of how far gender equality has come as a whole.

“But as we all know, we’ll never achieve true gender equality until we parent equally, and with twice as many men thinking we’ve already got there, as women, we’ve still got a way to go before the reality of day to day life catches up with our ideals.”

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