Do gender roles still exist? Is your family a little unique when it comes to who performs what duties in the home?
In this day and age, do gender roles, as they so blatantly existed in 1950s propaganda still exist? Is the traditional thought of a home still made up of the husband as the main breadwinner, and the woman left at home to tend to the housework and children? In some cases we still are able to see gender discrimination, with men receiving more pay on average than their female counterparts. However as a generation comes to pass, the roles that society has placed on us, or we have inherited, melt away as we define our own existence as independent people.
As humans we constantly adapt to the situations that are presented to us. With a shift in media especially, to more Internet-based work, and other various professions that once were not viable, but now are major bread winning professions, more jobs are able to be done from home. This throws a wrench in the “stay at home parent”, when the parent is working from their home. This shift towards working from home, allows people of both sexes to be able to be self-employed, work with, for, or separate from their partner, while still being present in the home. How is that defined? We are not about to partner ourselves with like-minded start up businesses that work towards a common goal, and give us much more free time than traditional jobs have given us. How are we defined outside of our working hours? Do we need definition any further than just a “family”?
There was a period in time, if not currently in some circles, that the “man of the house” participating in the traditional “women’s duties ” were looked down upon as less than masculine. At whichever point in time providing for your family erased the notion of also being there physically and emotionally is an unfortunate diminishing of a strong familial structure. We have learned time and time again that money cannot buy happiness, and the time spent away from your home chasing the rat race is not time that you can buy back. As any child if they would rather go the the park with their parents, or have 10 dollars an hour. A savvy teenager might take the cash, but a young child, in their most formative years would certainly like the family time. This is not to say those that are forced to work hard, and outside of the home, male or female, and cannot afford to spend much time with their family are wrong. What I’m saying is that an absent father, be it through marital circumstance, or through being a workaholic is no benefit to a family emotionally, when they come home drained and go straight to bed.
That being said, it’s high time to take a look at the roles we have placed upon each other. Is it not acceptable for a father to be a “stay-at-home dad”, while the mother does the brunt of the work outside the home? Of course it is! Are we so easily defined as people that we all must live as a societal family structure that forces us to be away from each other for most of the week? I have many friends where both parents are working from home, or work outside of them home minimally and are able to focus on time with their family. They are not defined by the work, as so many people are, but are defined by what they love. I would never call my friend Shaun, a “computer guy”, I would call him a family man, first and foremost. I can’t say whether children in this situation are exposed to more “family type” stimulus, then any other child. What I have observed is that many children are advanced socially when are exposed to a loving family, and are able to explore more adult emotions, no matter what role the parent is fulfilling. A strong man is not defined by being absent, and a strong woman is not defined as being docile and subservient to her husband. We don’t live in those times, and thankfully we may never again.
I understand that not every family has the luxury of having both parents present, and that is an entirely different subject altogether. Despite the hard times and confusion having an absent parent might leave your family, it also gives another opportunity to define and re-define societal the gender roles. Coming from a home with an absent father, my mother at times was forced to fill her own maternal role, but also the role of my father as a hard worker outside of the home. My grandparents also filled those roles for me as well. Women, and family members who make sacrifices, their roles should not be diminished, but celebrated, respected, and rewarded.
No one should feel ashamed for taking care of their family, however that is defined. The issue I have is how society defines the roles we must fill and tries to make us feel ashamed for filling ones we excel in. We all have different strengths and talents. Both men and women can fill the roles of either gender, as defined by our social structures. It would be ignorant to think a woman couldn’t be the breadwinner, as the man cooks, cleans and cares for the children. That is a very manly job indeed, just as the a woman working outside of the home is very respectable and admirable.
Some relationships consist of people, where one might be better than the other at a certain familial function, despite their gender. We all have heard the saying “we know who wears the pants in that family”, but why is that something to be ashamed of? With the rise of many alternative relationships it’s very hard to define proper, roles for men and women if the parents consist of men and men, or women and women. My wife and I have both worked a number of various jobs. At different times my profession was the main breadwinner. I eagerly stepped into the role of providing for my family monetarily at the expense of being outside of the home and not being available physically and emotionally for my new child and wife. Other times my wife’s job has become the main breadwinner and instead of resenting that as some people do, I relish in her success. Her success is also my success, it’s our success, as we are a family unit. We are one!
As time passed her business took off and I eagerly stepped into the role that she before was filling. I found out that not only was I a good cook but I also enjoyed it. Being willing to clean the house, attend to handyman projects, cook, help entertain our child, and teach our child while mom was working was something that I found I was really fit for. I was surprised to find that other acquaintances of mine were also what you could call a “stay-at-home dad “. Again this is not something to be ashamed of, nor should society place pressure on the man who in fact is providing for his family by being there as a father for his family. My wife specifically is a very strong, independent, and hard-working woman. She has always been the kind of person that is a better leader than follower. I found that it was selfish for me to continue working a job with low pay and poor benefits, when my wife could use the extra help, and I could help along the business as well as help tend to the duties at home she was unable to care for.
I’d like to think we are at a time where gender roles could really be eradicated. Although some families do eagerly fit into those roles of well defined parameters, the reality is that whatever roll you fill, as long as it works for you family, outside influence shouldn’t be a factor. I am lucky to have an extremely talented wife, that can provide our family with monetary support. She is lucky to have a husband who is able to take a step back, remove his ego, and get to work in the home as well. If you don’t believe that being a stay-at-home dad is hard work, ask your wife, or mother how hard their day-to-day duties are if they stay at home. You soon will find that the same amount of work goes into professions outside the home, as professions inside the home as well.
Whether you serve as an example of a redefined gender role yourself, or as an example of traditional roles as they are, the hard work you do for your family should never be diminished. Making a family work is hard, and I salute you no matter how you do it. Those that fill both gender roles, such as single mothers, and single fathers, I applaud you for your hard work. Doing it as a team has been hard enough, but doing it on your own is something that must be infinitely harder. So good luck to you and yours, however it is that you make it work.
Do you have any stories to share about the roles of mom and dad in your family? Are you a stay-at-home dad? Are you a mother that works outside of the home? Or do you tout the benefits of the traditional gender roles? We would love to hear from you!