Growing up, there were very clear gender roles in my parent’s home. My mom was in charge of all the household chores (or making sure we children did our share) and my father worked as many hours as possible to support our family of six. My mother did not work outside of the home until I was thirteen years old.
On a Personal Note:
When I got married (at nineteen) I was still in school. My husband was in school and working in his first job. We hadn’t discussed the division of labor extensively before we got married. However, we had discussed that I planned to go on to graduate school and earn a professional degree. Consequently, it was understood that the division of labor in the home would be more egalitarian than what we had each grown up with. The truth is, that almost all of our friend’s were also planning on having a more equally divided system of labor in their home. I remember one night just a few weeks before our wedding day I was going out to vote in local elections with my married friend. As we pulled out of her driveway she yelled “don’t forget to put up the quinoa” to her husband. I remember thinking that my father never could have “put up the quinoa.”
For the first few months we tried to do everything together. Each Wednesday night we would plan a menu for the week and do the grocery shopping together. We would then come home and put the items away. The following night we would cook for the week and on Friday we cleaned the house together. While it was nice to spend time in each other’s company we slowly realized that this system was rather inefficient. Six years later, after many transformations we still have a very egalitarian system of division in our home, however, we don’t do the same chores. Over time we realized that my husband was not very good at cooking – and I came to love being creative with food.
On the other hand, my husband, a scientist, has become the family baker. In addition we have split up other tasks as well – I am in charge of laundry, and my husband does all the shopping. There are of course, a few times here and there where the division changes. For example, after each of our children was born I was “off duty.” Likewise, there have been a few particularly busy weeks at his work or mine that we needed to fill in the gaps.
On a Global Level:
Gender role’s influence on the division of labor at home is changing rapidly in contemporary society. Historically the genders were divided into hunters (men) and gatherers (women). As the age of hunting and gathering was taken over by large supermarket chains, it became more typical for men to go out into the work force, being the primary bread-winners, and for woman to stay home raising the children and taking care of the home.
Over the centuries the feminist movement has argued that women too could go out and work. However, for a long time women’s careers were mainly limited to teaching, nursing, and a few other “womanly” jobs. Additionally, men were expected to do more “serious” work such as being doctors or lawyers. Consequently, even in homes where the woman did work outside of the home she was still expected to be the primary caregiver for the children and do most, if not all of the household chores.
In recent decades there has been a serious feminist revolution. Starting with universities. While initially the IVY league schools in the United States were all men. It was not until 1970 that the first women enrolled in Harvard. The concept of coeducation for men and women at a higher level has allowed for many other significant changes for women in the labor force. However, men were still not accustomed to taking on the “female” chores.
As, some women started becoming successful in professional fields, sometimes even earning more than their male counterparts, questions have arisen regarding the gender roles inside the home. About a year ago, there NY times magazine article featuring stay-at-home fathers. These featured men whose salaries were not comparable to their wives’ earning potential. Consequently, the family made a decision to have the mother work and the father stay home and care for the young children and the home. While this is certainly far from the normal practice, it is clear that the world is changing rapidly.
Revital Belz is one of the Canaan-Online.com team. She is a mother of five boys and is very interested in family and raising kids issues.