Last month, I got a little into what comes next for women as we strive to move forward and break down barriers. Much of the way forward for me has been breaking down the gender stereotypes that I run into for myself and talking to those around me about the way they see gender when they stereotype. One of the stereotypes that continues to plague women is that we are somehow meant to stay at home and that men are somehow incapable of doing so.
I see a lot more buzz around women breaking down barriers at work than about women breaking out of the kitchen. I’m sure that has a lot to do with the fact that we aren’t generally “stuck” there in the US anymore. There are still lots of gendered expectations that put us in the kitchen or at home doing laundry more than the men in our lives, though. This has proven an interesting place to work on what comes next, at least in my family.
There’s a lot to modeling expectations for our children and not getting stuck in gender roles. A few years ago I read a book called The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation Is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America and part of it talks about gender role flexibility. Families that have the best chance of surviving tough times together are the ones that don’t get so caught up in gender roles that Mom can’t get a job while Dad is out of work and that Dad won’t take care of the kids or wash the dishes while she’s at work. It also plays into the article that mentioned that the best thing a dad can do to increase his daughter’s future earning ability is the dishes while she’s a kid. The theory goes that this is because she sees that she won’t have to do all the work at home and can therefore take on more at work.
It is still an unfinished revolution at work and at home. There are still plenty of couples that start off as peer marriages and digress to traditional forms despite the wishes of those within it for reasons that are social and feel out of control and sometimes are. A lot of it has to do with earning power and at home work load. These correlations are explained well in both Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home and Love Between Equals: How Peer Marriage Really Works. Those of us striving for peer marriage may never end up there, but we can go a long way to helping the next generation finish this revolution as long as they see us striving for it and they know what the actual hurdles are.
I sincerely hope for my son that he never feels the need to be a singular breadwinner but is ready for that circumstance, that he remembers how great it was be taken care of by his dad so much and does the same with his children, and that he remembers to split the chores fairly so everyone can get some rest. I hope he helps finished the “unfinished revolution”. And I’d wish the same for a daughter if I had one.