Shifting gender roles: at home and in the workplace

    Stay-at-home dads and working moms are a much discussed demographic lately. Traditional gender roles are being challenged by powerful counterexamples, as American families create something new. The benefits are far and wide for everyone.


    All around us, the gender wall is being torn down in the Mom-at-home, Dad-at-work family model. Earlier this month, the Philadelphia-based Pew Research Center published a study reporting that 71% of mothers work. A few days later, The Center For American Progress released a study finding women are the breadwinner or co-breadwinners in two thirds of families.


    In 1975, 47% of mothers worked.


    TIME Magazine addressed the phenomenon with their March 26th cover story, The Richer Sex. A book by the same title has made an enormous splash in social commentary outlets. In his show on WHYY, Voices In The Family, host Dr. Dan Gottlieb recently ran a great story about stay at home dads and its trend in local families.


    This migration of lines that used to divide labor is a glorious thing because it challenges the notion of stereotypes. Once the main oppressive idea is torn down, there is room for many others to fill the space.  This is good news for everyone.


    One just has to look around to see bountiful examples of flexibility in family structures. Of the families in our life, there are configurations: working moms, single parents, stay at home moms, two working parents, communal living, multi-generational families and stay-at-home Dads.


    One single Mom explains it this way, “I am the sole provider and caretaker for my three year old. I have been blessed with finding flexible jobs in real estate and in the restaurant business where I can be at home with my daughter when she’s not at school and then work while she’s sleeping. We might not live an extravagant life right now, but I feel grateful to be able to be the one spending majority of her days raising her.”


    Another parent talks about communal living as “…really family style living, shared between people who might not be blood relatives, but live together sharing the responsibilities of living as a functioning unit. Because of this, it’s hard to find the ‘right’ people, but when it’s right, it’s wonderful.”


    A family with two parents says, “We are a two mom home. One of us works full time at home raising our two very busy sons and works part time on the weekends doing massage and reiki. The other works full time in non-profit public health agency during the week. Having a parent at home is important to us, it definitely has its challenges at times, but has been completely worth it for us as a family.”


    There are a million and one reasons, running the gamut from choice to necessity, that factor into the way a family is structured. Work, family and the intermingling of the two could create a beautiful harmony. With the tearing down of gender norms, maybe other norms will get torn down along with it.


    How is your family composed?


    Northwest Philly Parents is a partnership between Newsworks and Germantown Avenue Parents.  

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