Equalize Gender Roles In The Home For This Century

In today’s expensive world, dual-income households have become a necessity for many. One thing that hasn’t quite evolved well with the times is the challenge of traditional gender roles in modern dual-income households.  It’s time to rewrite the narrative and create a space where both partners thrive, regardless of societal norms.

The Dilemma

Traditional gender roles can often cast shadows over dual-income households. The expectation that women handle the lion’s share of domestic responsibilities while men focus solely on their careers can be suffocating and limiting. While I have been blessed to marry a man who is a teammate in all things, others I know have not been so fortunate. While they bring in a full-time income and are expected to financially contribute,  they are also expected to shoulder all the duties of a traditional stay at home parent. Times have changed and something’s got to give.

In a traditional household, women tended to the children and responsibilities of the home. Men earned the income to support his families financial needs. Even then, the good men would pitch in around the home, taking on bedtime, dinner, or weekend chores. Though that wasn’t as common as one would hope. I was raised in a home with traditional roles but my dad often read me stories til I fell asleep. He was out in the yard with us on the weekends pulling weeds and doing the upkeep. Did he do as much around the house as my mom? No. But that was their arrangement. He earned the money and she raised the kids. It worked for them. 

In these modern times, finding stay at home parents is more rare. In some cases it’s a choice to work and for others it’s a financial necessity. The problem in both circumstances is, women are still taking on the lion share of child rearing and housekeeping duties in addition to bringing home the bacon. We have been fed this lie that women can do it all. I can tell you, as a mom who attempted to work from home while child rearing, homeschooling, and keeping up a home, you can’t do it all. At least not well enough to feel even slightly okay about it. It is unfair to expect women to do everything in the relationship. That’s not a partnership.

Here are the 5 main struggles with keeping traditional gender roles in dual income households. 

Unequal Distribution: The pressure to conform to traditional roles can lead to an unequal distribution of household chores and childcare duties, causing exhaustion and resentment. I know when I was doing it all, I grew a lot of resentment towards my husband. I discovered I needed to voice my needs, and reset expectations in our home. You see, when children entered the picture, we didn’t really understand just how much load it would add to me. I was overwhelmed, frustrated, and felt like I was all alone. 

Career Sacrifices: When one partner’s career is prioritized over the other’s due to societal expectations, it can hinder individual growth and hinder financial stability. Men tend to make more money. Not because they are more valuable or knowledgeable, but because they tend to procure jobs that pay more. It doesn’t matter who makes more or less in the marriage. You both live in the same home, share children together, and should split the duties. Income levels are irrelevant. 

Emotional Labor: Women, in particular, can find themselves bearing the brunt of emotional labor – managing schedules, remembering important dates, and maintaining relationships. Add to that planning vacations, scheduling date nights, finding childcare, prioritizing everyone else’s needs over their own… it’s no wonder why we feel our brains stop working and quality sleep eludes us. Our minds are in overdrive 24/7. 

Identity Suppression: Both partners might experience a sense of loss as they suppress parts of their identity to fit into predefined roles. This was so true for me as a first time mom. I quickly lost all of my freedoms and was responsible for the well-being, stability, and development of 2 children with a really tough background. It took me many months before I recognized the crucial need to take care of myself and to not lose myself in the very important role of motherhood. It became a part of my identity but not my entire identity. 

Double Shift: Women, especially, often find themselves performing a ‘double shift’ – working a full day outside the home and then returning to a full workload at home. For those women who work from home and full-time caregiver to their children, the double shift as it were, is even more crushing. Trying to switch between meeting their needs, appeasing your work needs, maintaining a home,  all at the same time. (that’s me, by the way).

Strategies for Empowerment

Open Communication: Initiate honest conversations about roles, expectations, and feelings. Express your desires and establish a joint vision for your partnership. My husband had no idea the mental and emotional load that I took on when the kids came along. He was working out of the home and was privy to all the goings on. I had to express to him where my struggles were and where I needed him to step up. Thankfully, when I did, he immediately began pitching in more. There wasn’t an argument, he didn’t try to exclaim how tired he was after work and that he deserved his “me time”. He didn’t argue that his higher salary  was enough contribution. Shockingly, I have heard from others that their partners have pulled that crap. Real men step up and help within their household, regularly. They look for the needs and do them without complaint. They love their partner enough to want to ease their burden instead of selfishly. I thank God daily, my partner is in fact that, a partner. He wants to be a parent and a husband. He takes pride in that and does his best to make sure we know it.  

Shared Responsibilities: Distribute household tasks and childcare responsibilities fairly, based on skills and availability, rather than gender. When we first married, we talked about what chores we liked and those we didn’t. For instance, I despise vacuuming and my husband doesnt mind it. That became his thing. We both don’t mind dishes so when we see it needs doing, one of us just does it. Some people may benefit from a chart outlining specific duties. We haven’t needed that.

Career Flexibility: Encourage both partners to pursue their career aspirations. Seek flexible work arrangements and consider co-parenting models that allow for balanced involvement. When my husband was considered for a promotion, it was encouraged. When I traveled for work, it was encouraged. Our career is not who we are, it is what we do. Jealousy and resentment over career and salary should have no place in your relationship. Keep in mind when seeking new opportunities of how the new obligations will affect your current situation. How can you pursue your dreams without unfairly burdening your partner? 

Supportive Allies: Involve family, friends, and colleagues in your journey to challenge stereotypes and garner support. When I would go out of town for a girls getaway, people were shocked that my husband was the one taking care of them. This baffled his brain. Why wouldn’t he? They are his children after all. It can be hard to break the traditional mentality of gender roles but having regular conversations with your extended support system can slowly help them understand the necessity for balance of duties in modern society. 

Mindful Self-Care: Prioritize self-care for both partners. Remember that self-care isn’t gender-specific; it’s crucial for everyone’s well-being. My husband has a few nights he likes to play basketball. I do my best to not plan things on those nights so that he can. The same goes for me. He makes sure not to plan things on the nights I have therapy or exercise class. We encourage each other to do the things we enjoy. Sometimes together and sometimes alone. That was such a foreign concept to many in our circle, but it has really helped us be happier in our lives. I don’t feel so disconnected from my true self and I know that when life gets overwhelming, I have the support to take a break and reset. It’s hugely important to not feel trapped or stuck in life. 

Set Boundaries: Establish boundaries between work and home life. Disconnect from work-related matters during personal time to foster better work-life balance. I will not put my work email on my phone. It can be accessed during business hours. Nothing is such an emergency that they cannot wait. On the other hand, my husband’s job is managing a 24/7 facility. He actively stops working at a set time each day. They divide the on call hours between all team members. I understand that on his weeks on call, he has to be available 24/7. It was a tough adjustment and I can’t say I’ve loved the 3 am phone calls. But he found ways to minimize its impact on our home life. 

Embracing Change

The path to a balanced partnership may be challenging, but it’s a transformative journey that paves the way for individual fulfillment and shared happiness. By challenging traditional norms and embracing equality, we’re creating an example for our children. Changing generations to come.

I should add this caveat. I believe traditional households are great too. If that is what both partners choose to do and are happy doing so. There is no shame in that. The problem arises when someone is stuck in a role simply because of their gender. SIngle parents have no choice but to do it all. I hope they have a strong support system. They are the true rock stars of parenthood and I have so much admiration for their capabilities.  

I’d love to hear how you’ve made it work in your homes. Connect with me over on Instagram.