Objective. Considerable attention has been given to the division of househo
ld labor in male-female couple households and to assessments of its equity.
While women's experience of housework has been characterized as either ted
ious and thankless or a more positive expression of love and care, there is
very limited empirical evidence about how women (or men) actually experien
ce the work. We assess these reactions and investigate how they are influen
ced by women's and men's household and paid work contexts and the content o
f the housework performed. Methods. This research uses data from married an
d cohabiting men and women respondents to the 1987-88 wave of the National
Survey of Families and Households. Results. While women's reactions to hous
ework are slightly less positive than men's, both are similar and are more
positive than negative. There is also similarity across gender in the facto
rs explaining these attitudes. Conclusions. The unpleasantness of housework
(especially for women) may be less a reflection of the qualities of the wo
rk itself than of the consequences of its allocation for women's ability to
perform outside roles and for their sense of marital equity.