Ruben  Navarrette Jr.,

SAN DIEGO -- There was this perceptive episode of the ``George Lopez" show where George and his wife Angie are squabbling over who contributes more to the household. They create a point system to keep track of who does what. Before long, George is demanding points for taking out trash or helping his children with their homework.

I get the joke.

This is an ongoing argument in our house, and, from what I gather, many households across the country. You're especially likely to hear rumblings of it in homes with small children and too little time and parents who are fiercely protective of the moments they have to themselves. At the core of this squabble is a simple question with no simple answer: Who does more -- Mommy or Daddy?

Take my advice. Don't go there. In many two-parent families, each parent makes valuable contributions to the family and household, even if we're better at keeping track of what we do than noticing what our spouse does. So it's just as well that a new study has come along saying we should declare this contest a tie.

Conducted by a team of researchers lead by Suzanne M. Bianchi, chairwoman of the sociology department at the University of Maryland, the study analyzed thousands of personal ``time diaries'' where people recorded how they spent their days. The findings were then compared to what we know about how men and women spent their time in 1965.

All this was included in an important new book, ``Changing Rhythms of American Family Life," written by Bianchi and co-authors John P. Robinson and Melissa A. Milkie, also sociologists at the University of Maryland.

Bianchi and Co. gave us a lot to chew on here, and some of it turns on its head the conventional thinking about the division of labor and gender roles. While many women work outside the home, they still devote, on average, twice as much time to housework and child care as men do, the study found. Men spend more time at work than their fathers did a generation ago and yet -- when they get home -- they still find time to help take care of the kids.

I didn't need a study to tell me that. When I get off work, my wife -- who has been home all day with our 2-year-old daughter -- naturally expects some relief. And that's what I provide.

Bianchi insists that, as young dads go, I'm not alone -- despite popular myths to the contrary.

``In the literature, there has been an overemphasis on what men aren't doing,'' she told me, ``and maybe a failure to pay attention to what they increasingly are doing.''

Ruben Navarrette Jr.,

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a columnist and editorial board member of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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