Household roles, from the history of time, have been segregated by gender. The ‘man of the house’ who sets out to hunt, go to the field, or work at an office, brings home the food and the woman dominates the living spaces and the kitchen, nurturing the young and nourishing the household. Over centuries, women’s roles have evolved and become equal to men in many spheres. Education rates have shot up, careers and jobs have opened up, and the roles are changing. Globally, women now represent close to 40% of the formal workforce, a percentage higher than ever before – and on the rise.
When both adult members of a family work, roles in the household change. Women share the role of bringing home the bread, are independent and mobile. Men often participate more with maintenance of the house, assisting or ruling in the kitchen.
Some may call this an ‘evolution’ of men’s roles. Some may term it ludicrous.
Science seems to suggest that when couples split household responsibilities, especially cooking, good things lay in store. A survey by the Calphalon knife company along with Lightspeed Research in 2016, claimed that amongst 1000 US couples, close to 87% believed that cooking together was one of the key ways to strengthen relationships.
What are other changes that cause shifts in the roles men play in a household?
Ishwar Athreya, who is a retired father of two young adults, says that having children changes a man’s role and the needs of a household. From supporting his wife with household chores, to assisting with the children, men are now required to take on multiple roles that they were historically alienated from. Research has consistently shown that men who are involved in the household and as fathers have better marital relationships, more emotionally and psychologically well rounded children, and even advance in their careers. One study shows that fathers who share the load at home raise more ambitious daughters.
From childbirth, a father’s involvement, especially in a nuclear family is paramount. Nritya and Arvind from Chennai, India who have two boys feel that they shared much of the work in the initial stages. “From bathing the babies, to changing nappies and washing them, Arvind did it all and was very hands-on. When the family saw him doing all this, many elders mentioned how in their time, men didn’t help with such activities at all.” quips Nritya.
Companies around the world have begun to recognise the importance of supporting husbands and fathers in a household. In countries like Norway and Germany, parents can avail over fifty weeks of parenting leave with full salary. With India’s proposed Paternity Benefit Bill (2017) fathers will be able to get paternity leave extendable upto three months. Even today, multinational companies like Deutsche Bank and Johnson and Johnson offer sizeable paternity leave options.
Emmanuel, a resident of Berlin clarifies that he sees big changes in the household, especially with support from employers. “While it's great to see these changes and hear that roles are becoming more balanced and equal, somehow in the streets, even in Berlin I always seem to see women pushing prams and doing errands, or spending time in the park. I’m sure the evolution of men’s roles are inevitable, but it’s a step by step process.”
Tara Thomas is a writer and content consultant based in India with big love for music, the outdoors, new cuisines, and travel adventures that take her to remote corners of the world. She hopes to one day solve a cryptic crossword solo (or with a little help from her friends.)