For the Strong Men in Your Lives…
Roles, Responsibilities & Realizations in an Ever-Changing World by Tom Watson, Author of Man Shoes
The idea that ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’ is a dinosauric way of thinking in today’s world. The level of success families will achieve in the future is completely reliant on how well men and women adjust to the new reality of sharing home-life management.
In a world racing faster than ever before, couples are stretched to the max in their ability to grow, build strong, healthy relationships & families, fulfilling careers, and finance their ever-expanding lifestyles.
Significant growth in the numbers of women entering the workplace and pursuing professional careers throughout the past 6+ decades has aided families in financing their lifestyles; but perhaps at the expense of keeping the home-front in order, children properly attended to, and ‘the man of the house cared for’.
A look back in time to the early 1950’s saw a significant change for women in North American society. The Second World War of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s had come to an end. During the war, many women entered the workforce to fill vacated jobs while their men were called to duty. As the war heroes returned from the battlefields, there was widespread expectation that many of the jobs that women had assumed while their men were at war would be reinstated to them as they returned home. Although many women wanted to retain their careers outside of the home, societal pressures and possibly outdated thinking forced many of them back into more traditional roles as homecare providers. Television shows and advertisements continually set the example of what a normal North American family should be and how it should function. Often shows like Ozzie and Harriet and television advertisements that accompanied televised shows would depict women in their homes cleaning, cooking and caring for their children and husbands – smiling, always smiling. The underlying message was that women should be happy in the role of home care provider and caregiver rather than being out in the workforce. It is not surprising that for several years after the Second World War, there was a significant decrease in the number of women going to College and University and a much larger than normal percentage of women dropping out of post-secondary education and workforce employment to become wives and at-home mothers.
There is no doubt that societal norms have evolved and changed tremendously in the decades since the 1950’s. Although television and other media influenced the idea of the stay-at-home mom in the 1950’s and 60’s, a portion of women in North America continued to maintain work and careers outside of their homes and advocated for acceptance of women in the workplace. It has taken decades for a much more wide-sweeping acceptance of women in the workplace to take hold, and one might ask if the slow evolution of career women in the workplace is due to the traditional relationship ideals of the 1950’s and 1960’s? Quite likely it is.
For the most part (even today) women in society are still viewed as the primary caregivers to the children in the family, in large part because of the birth and nurturing process that occurs. Although men, in many cases, are more involved in the development of family today than most were in the 1950’s, it can be argued that women are still seen as the primary home caregivers for their families – even if they are holding down second income or career jobs. It would seem that traditional thinking about a woman’s role and a man’s role in the family at some level still makes it challenging for women to aggressively pursue and attain careers in the workforce.
Let’s consider some of the challenges women and men face as role modification occurs today:
- Popeye the Sailor Man Syndrome. Many of you may remember the character Popeye, the star of a highly watched cartoon years ago. One of Popeye’s favourite sayings was “I yam what I yam and tha’s all what I yam.” To a certain extent, that saying reflects the mentality that society has instilled in males across North America since the early 1950’s. Men were encouraged to be the breadwinners first and a husband and father second and third. Much of a man’s identity to this day is wrapped up in his work… to the detriment of most everything else. Leaving the idea that a man might focus more attention on home affairs – to offset some of a woman’s efforts while she is out in the workforce – very difficult for most men (even today) to accept. For decades men were not expected to be home caretakers at any significant level. That work was primarily left for women to handle. The rub today is that more women than ever are in the workforce, and women need to share more of the home front responsibilities with their men; (many of whom) still hold a Popeye’s view of what their roles are as financial providers and breadwinners outside of the home.
Because of this, women and men are struggling relationally. In fairness, it seems that more men are accepting and growing into the new blended roles required of them. But to say that many men are filling the gaps at home adequately is probably a stretch. This won’t end until men deal with the Popeye Syndrome in their lives and decide that they can change and grow and learn to fill the home-front gaps allowing the women in their lives the opportunity to fully pursue their professional careers as well.
- I-Can-Do-Anything-You-Can-Do-Better Syndrome. What do we mean by this? For the most part, men have been told (and continue to be told by media and society today) that they are ‘dumb’ when it comes to homecare responsibilities: poor cooks, poor decision-makers when it comes to their children, terrible house-keepers, and so on. Society makes it easy for men to use the excuse of being inept. Ineptness is the acceptable excuse as to why men should not be left to deal with the affairs of the home. The fact is, most men worth their salt can learn and grow into new and expanded roles – and, in fact, if women are going to be truly successful pursuing their careers men MUST successfully do so!
My suggestion to today’s women: Don’t accept that men can’t grow into strong contributors and co-managers at home. Reject what television and social media are portraying. Men aren’t ‘dumb’ in this area, and they can do many things well – including cooking and cleaning and helping their kids with homework, groceries, school, and life.
To get great results, encourage us, the strong men in your life – husbands, sons, brothers, nephews, grandsons – to take on roles that may traditionally not been seen as men’s roles in the past. Be patient – avoid belittling as new homecare skills and basics are learned. And guys, take on new roles at home and grow into them. Shed the Popeye approach to life, and step up to the plate! [PowHERhouses note: Positively support our efforts because for your career aspirations to be ultimately successful, your man’s support and success at home is a must – for the long haul.]
- Communication, communication, communication. It is the key. Knowing how and when responsibilities get done builds unity in the approach and results. Home efforts often happen organically, and it’s not until a significant change occurs (like a woman taking on work outside of the home) that gaps in what normally gets done become visible. Communicating with one another to create a workable system and avoid resentment are critical.
In order for more and more women to step up as professional, business and community leaders across Canada, our thinking and our actions must shift! Men and women need to continue to transition away from traditional family views and roles and establish progressive relationship norms that allow for success at home and at work for the entire family.
In our next PowHERcouple article in this series, we dig deeper into the how and why of the new norms for couples in today’s society, ensuring true, joint success is achieved together for both careers and home.
Tom is a father, husband, the author of the best selling book “Man Shoes“, an international speaker and businessman and last but not least, the founder of Your Better Life. A site created to help people reignite their lives and inspire them to thrive.
Tom is a storyteller extraordinaire who possesses the rare ability to take audiences on a journey that truly awakens them to their inner potential. His personal belief is that every person has the ability to achieve greater success in their personal and professional lives – and that we all own the responsibility of helping others be successful as well.
As a speaker, his presentations inspire audiences to see themselves differently. They challenge individuals to grow past themselves and provides them with tools and thought patterns that not only help them to reconsider their own lives but urge them to become more passionate about selflessly serving others and building personal legacies that will be positively remembered. Learn more about Tom.