Parent Gender Roles Aren’t What They Used To Be…and I’m Glad!

Dad reads to baby

Parenting roles aren’t gender specific anymore. Nowadays, it seems that the majority of parents believe that “teamwork makes the dream work.” Responsibilities that once were handled by one parent or the other, now have a blended, all-hands-on-deck approach. 

In our home, we are a community of doers. If a chore needs doing, we just do it instead of waiting for the parent that normally handles the task. After exploring gender-defined roles with our Chattanooga Moms Blog community and several of my parent friends, it appears that many families break away from gender-specific parenting roles.

Parenting roles can be broken down into three main categories. There are traditional, non-traditional and joint responsibilities that work for our family. After you read through this article, please let us know in the comment section if these are similar to your family and tell us if you bend gender roles and rules in your home.

TRADITIONAL PARENTING ROLES

Bringing Home the Bacon

My husband is the primary breadwinner and provides the most for us financially. We are grateful for his income but since he also carries all of our family’s health insurance through his employer, we consider ourselves fortunate to have the additional healthcare benefit.

Bringing home the bacon, frying it in the pan.

Frying it Up In The Pan

I do the majority of the cooking with the exception of the grill. My husband is an amazing griller, but admittedly most of our outside cooking is during the summer. Both of my sisters married men who cook (year round) so they often come home to meal preparation already in progress. I’m sure God had a reason to give them this perk instead of me, but I do appreciate the days we are invited to dinner. Our biggest cooking issue is that we have limited time after work. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but grilling seems to be more trouble than stirring a pot on the stove or setting a timer on the oven.

Repairs and Maintenance

My guy is The Howard Family on-duty repairman. Sort of like Maytag, but not. He handles lights, plumbing, and most bug-killing. The only exception to the Howard Honey-Do rule is when a product comes with “some assembly required.” Modular furniture makes him crazy along with toys that need construction, like doll houses. I enjoy the challenge of a puzzle and have more patience for step-by-step directions.

Laundry Queen Rules

“Hi, I’m Eleanor and I’m a control freak about laundry.” Even though I’ve taught and demonstrated the art of laundry — yes, I did say art — to the kids, I still do most of it because I’m a weirdo. It’s satisfying to sort by color and fabric, fold a certain way and pull a few garments out of the dryer before they are completely dry so the wrinkles fall out just perfectly. It’s one of the few chores I actually enjoy and I’m claiming it. If you don’t like laundry, then what’s your favorite chore?

Yard King

The majority of yard work falls on my husband’s shoulders (and back, and knees and nearly every other body part that strains when working in the dirt). I like to think that I “help” when it’s time to plant annuals and I tell my husband it’s “fun” to visit a garden center so “we” can select a new flowering shrub or tree. I also enjoy lounging on the back porch with a mixed drink and supervising, (err) adoring my husband’s yard work efforts with the tough stuff like trimming bushes and putting out mulch…or whatever he does to make the yard look great.

NON-TRADITIONAL ROLES

Household finances.

SHE – It’s all about the Money, money…

I handle the majority of bookkeeping and most issues relating to household finances. You would think that I take on this responsibility because of my background in accounting, but that’s not the reason. My father raised three daughters to understand all aspects of household finances so my sisters and I balance our checkbooks, look for best values on insurance coverage, keep an eye on our investments and set up the 529 plans for our kids’ college. (Thanks, Dad.) My husband and I always discuss large purchases, but often I’m the one who tips the decision one way or the other.

HE – Packing School Lunches

My husband packs school lunches. Danny is up earlier in the morning and the kids prefer his packing to mine. It probably has something to do with the quantity of food and fun variety. Over-packing seems to be their Dad’s weakness and our kids enjoy the spoils of his exuberance. Some of their lunch items come home in the afternoon since they didn’t have time to eat it, but as the Kermit the Frog meme says, “That’s none of my business.”

SHE – Car Maintenance

Strange but true, I handle most car issues and service. I don’t service the cars; I keep records on when they are to be serviced. My car records notebook has been known to impress even the most difficult service manager. My tabbed file folder organization is my personal car concierge and it holds every single record about our vehicles. My book will tell me the last time we changed the windshield wipers, rotated the tires or had a transmission service.

HE – Volunteer Champion

I love my husband for many reasons, but I think he’s an amazing volunteer. Danny is the go-to guy for most school parent volunteer activities. Even though both of us enjoy serving, his office is geographically closer to the school so he can stop by and help with evening activities and travel with the band for games.

EQUAL & BALANCED PARENTING ROLES

WE discipline together. Although I’m tougher, we share discipline equally and remain steady on a unified approach to boundaries and consequences.

WE spend time with the kids. Our kids are teenagers and naturally pulling away from time with us, but Danny and I both spend as much time with them as they’ll tolerate. 

WE grocery shop equally. Sometimes it comes down to whoever draws the shortest straw, but honestly, we both dislike the once-a-week chore. We work together on meal planning, coupons and checking the store flyer for specials. We are both good at coming up with menu ideas for the week and we both are cost conscious about grocery budget.

WE both take the kids to doctor appointments. This parent role is not just for the moms anymore! I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m a fainter. When the doctor said my son had to have his tonsils and adenoids out, I hit the floor. When they removed a molluscum from my daughter’s knee, my cheek pressed against the white/gray linoleum. I can handle the dentist. I’m good with a sick child and a fever, but if you make me go to my kid’s eye doctor, you’d better pack the smelling salts. For us, it just makes sense to divvy up the doctor appointments.

So now it’s your turn. What parent gender roles do you bend in your family? What is a chore that others think would typically be handled by the opposite sex? If you’re a single parent, what skills have you learned that you’re proud of? Let’s keep the Parent Gender Role conversation going and tell us in the comment what works in your family.

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2 Responses to Parent Gender Roles Aren’t What They Used To Be…and I’m Glad!

  1. Allie May 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

    I think the apparently-uneven division of labor in my house as I was growing up contributed a lot to my feelings about what my home would look like (in the event, that is, that I ever live with people more useful around the house than my cats). In my parents’ and my siblings’ relationships, I’ve seen the women of the house do most (if not all) of the work – even when they’ve had jobs too! It’s made me sort of untrusting of men as partners, because in my life they’ve always appeared to be lazy and unconcerned with the work that goes into making a house a home. Obviously that’s not true of all or even most men, but my male role models have been few and far-between

    I still remember the day my dad announced to the family, “I will no longer be involved in finances, your mother is handling it. I just make sure the money appears, I don’t know anything about it beyond that.” It felt weird, like he was abdicating an important responsibility, but I try to give him the benefit of a doubt. He was running his own business at the time and had his work cut out for him managing everything that entailed.

    My mom was responsible for…everything, it seemed like. Over the years she’s taken on home construction and repair projects from repairing and remodeling our bathroom to removing carpet and re-hanging windows. She singlehandedly managed the HUGE project of having their house raised when FEMA decided that the homes in their small south Louisiana town needed to be higher up to stop them from flooding. Which, by the way, she ALSO dealt with – their house flooded twice from hurricanes, and she repaired the floors and walls with almost no assistance. It’s amazing to see how much she’s done to keep things running at home, from everyday cooking and cleaning and laundry to gardening and tending fish tanks to huge repairs like that.

    Because I’ve seen my mom do so much, and go so far beyond traditional expectations of the kind of work women do, I often fantasize about the idea of a “two-mom household”. In those dreams I see a partnership that involves the trading-off of heavy lifting and careful nurturing, teaming up to decorate and organize, cooking together and sharing a passion for the warmth and comfort of home. The women in my life have always been proud protectors and providers, so to me there’s nothing a team like that couldn’t handle.

    • Eleanor Howard
      Eleanor Howard July 4, 2018 at 10:18 am #

      So interesting! Loved reading your point of view on this gender-role topic. Your mom sounds like a powerhouse and I admire her strength. If I were to guess, I bet you are a lot like her. Thank you for commenting.

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