Men are now beginning to take on greater responsibility in the home and in the raising and nurturing of children. This is after many hundreds of years where the wife was often the principle carer and home-maker. This big shift in attitudes can be attributed to the feminist movement of the 60s and the desire by many women for greater equality in society. Society began to change and acknowledge the important role women can play in society beyond the home and domestic duties. As well, marriages and relationships needed to change and acknowledge that traditional gender roles were not suitable for all couples.
Many of the traditional roles are based in the belief that there are distinct psychological differences between men and women. The psychological differences are the basis of gender stereotypes and influence the perception we have of women and men. Women are often stereotyped as caring, neater, more emotional and empathic. While men are often stereotyped as more aggressive, competitive, independent and career focused. In reality there is little difference between the psychological make-up of men and women. But what is different is the way nurturing and social conditioning influence the way children are perceived and raised. Children are socially conditioned by their parents and society to accept and believe in the psychological differences between men and women, which go on to create and reinforce gender stereotypes. There are greater differences within a group of men or women, than there are between men and women. The only real clear difference between men and women is their physical attributes. Although men are considered as the ‘stronger sex’, it is women who are probably hardier as they live longer and are less susceptible to many physical disorders.
Society is beginning to accept that men can be the principle carer and become a stay at home dad while their partner may go out to work. But for some it can be difficult transition due to the social conditioning and nurturing they have experienced in childhood. Some people may rationalise that they are OK with the change of roles but emotionally have difficulty accepting them. A man may feel that he is less masculine if he stays at home and becomes a house dad. He may feel that he is not fulfilling the “natural role” allotted to him as bread winner. While a woman may feel she is not fulfilling the role of mother and house maker and is lacking in the natural nurturing emotions if she works full-time. Social conditioning and traditional family values and beliefs may make it difficult for the individual to feel comfortable and successful in their change of role. To decide to change from the traditional roles may require a considerable amount of consideration, planning and sensitivity by both partners. Even when circumstances indicate that the change may be practical, the impact upon the relationship and individuals may be detrimental. Clear communication, planning and the willingness to understand their partner’s situation is critical in making these new roles work successfully for both people.
Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand