The expectations of males and females in parenting and caring are constantly changing. Stereotypically, females are seen as the carer and males are seen as the provider. Societal changes such as equal pay for equal work, work environment policies and changing family structures, i.e. single parents are changing these traditional expectations. This discussion will show how the empowerment of women and men influences the way they function in society.
· Traditionally, a father’s role was in the public realm of work, while female roles were based around their husband’s household (known as the domestic sphere. Men are often viewed as assertive, aggressive and domineering, while the women were viewed as house-makers and child-bearers. Now tasks are shared equally around the home, such as discipline. Discipline is shared between both parents, whereas, men used to discipline and children were taught to fear their fathers. Both parents are now seen equally, as providers and carers for their families. Both should determine the child’s education, set appropriate societal limits and have legal, welfare and responsibility of the child. However, traditional roles still exist in older generations, which may be influential on younger generations.
· Prior to WW2, women did not work as they were told that their role was to care for their husband and family. If women did work, it was usually in hard physical labour repetitive tasks. However, women were called up to the workforce when their husbands were sent to WW2 to stabilise the economy. When their husbands returned, they were told to go back to their traditional roles. Many women protested for their rights are formed women’s liberation. Equal pay for equal work allowed freedom for women. Before this legislation was passed in Australia in 1975, women were receiving 54% of the male rate. Women embraced the workforce, freeing them of their traditional roles. Women are now encouraged to have a career, but policies such as maternity leave, which is available for up to 52 weeks also allow women to have a family. Thus, due to the introduction of equal pay, women are now encouraged to have a carer, and not expected to stay at home and look after their children as a career.
· The introduction of the contraceptive pill in the 1970s also gave women more freedom in their domestic lives. Women were and are able to control their family structure, i.e. how many children they have and when they have children. Women were able to establish their career before having a family. Thus, females were no longer expected to have children early and not have a career, due to the freedom of the pill.
· Males are embracing the “radical” notion of equality due to societal changes. The role of “father” has dramatically changed over the post-war years an now fathers are serving as role models who support their children in sports and arts. Many husbands have supported their wives returning to work and have become the primary carer of their child. Paternity leave enables fathers to take up to 51 weeks for the employee who is the primary care giver of the child allowing the father to bond with the child.
David a lawyer choose to become the primary care giver of his child while his wife went back to work, to be involved in his child’s life, but admits that it is hard work as “there is no promotion”. Father support groups, such as “New Pin” in Western Sydney has been created to offer support by linking fathers together to discuss problems and provide strategies. Thus, societal changes such as paternity leave allows the mother to go to work and be the provider, and the father to take on the primary care giver role, with support offered to males who find the role challenging.
· Single parents are more accepted than they were 50 years ago. According to the ABS, 64% of male parents and 49% of female single parents work. Divorce is more common, but single-parenthood can also occur from a death of a partner, unplanned pregnancy or a planned pregnancy eg IVF. When individuals got divorced in the 1950s-1970s, women had sole custody of the child, as traditionally their role was the carer. Times have changed, however, and men are gaining sole custody of their children. Barry Hooker, a full time Dad and single parent of Leah “doesn’t regret his decision for a second” for leaving his job as a boilermaker. Thus, due to the acceptance of single parents, men are now gaining sole custody of children, which traditionally would not happen.
· However, in many aspects, our society has reinforced the traditional parenting roles for males and females. Generally, when children are sick, it is the mother who takes the day off. Women are the ones who drop of and pick up the kids from childcare and go to playgroup. Men support their son’s activities in sport, while women support their daughter’s activities in more passive arenas such as ballet. Currently, 20.9% of men are primary school teachers and 44.9% are high school teachers. Teaching may be unattractive to males due to the salary, status, and working with children runs counter to the male psyche. Parents are unintentionally or intentionally treating genders differently, which enforces these traditional gender roles through further generations. For eg, male babies are dressed in darker shades, while female babies are dressed in paler shades and boys are played with actively, while girls are handled more delicately. The concept of “male” and “female” develops from our experiences and observations. Household tasks should be shared equally, so children do not learn that one task is for males, while another task is for females.
· Pregnancy in teenage mothers is also now accepted by most parts of society, which may have been shunned in earlier years. Teenage mothers were not expected to have an education, but this has changed due to Principal Glenn Sargent’s young mothers program at Plumpton High. Here, young mothers are given an education, but the school also provides $5 a day day-care, support by counsellor Rebecca and shelter. He has created a suitable environment for young mothers to reach their full potential. His success is measured “for each individual’s marks and attendance”. Same sex-couples are also more accepted. Both parents can be free to parent equally, which forms intimacy with the child. Family and friends can form a network of social and emotional support as well as to offer their children suitable adult role models of the opposite sex.
Mainstream organisations also support same-sex couple’s i.e. alternative lifestyle association in Australia. Whoever the parents, all children need love and supervision. They all need to be sheltered, fed, taken to school and so on, thus the daily routine of same-sex couples is largely similar to heterosexual families. Thus, due to the social acceptance of pregnant teens, young mothers can raise a child and also gain an education due to Glenn Sargent’s young mothers programs, which would be unable in earlier years. Acceptance of same-sex couples has allowed individuals to create their own parenting skills in a nurturing and loving environment, similar to heterosexual environments. Both groups however are still often morally and socially stigmatised due to their lifestyle choices.
· Many employers in small and medium sized business provide a family friendly workforce. When women fell pregnant in the 1950s-1970s, women were forced to resign from their careers. But due to women’s liberation and workforce policies, women can now have a career and a family at the same time. Maternity leave is available for women up to 52 weeks. Work hours are changing to become more flexible for both parents, there are now split shifts and some business have child-care where parents can easily drop off and pick up their children. This places the stress off families who have both parents who work. Thus, many businesses have changed their workforces to accommodate to the changing expectations of men and women. Workforces now provide flexibility for both parents, and allow women to have a career and family.
Thus, expectations of males and females are currently changing, due to societal changes such as post WW2, work friendly environments and changing family structures. However, stereotypical male and female roles are still being enforced by parents, whose children will pass onto their own families, thus their roles will not change.