Changing Roles, Changing Expectations, and Changing Energy

Our traditional frameworks for families are changing. Women are entering the workforce in record numbers, and for the first time in history are set to outnumber the men. As a result of this shift, husbands are assuming increasing responsibility for childcare. This has not only created a redefinition of typical gender roles, but also changed the energy with which those roles are performed.

For example, as women spend an increasing amount of time in the masculine energy system of the workplace, they naturally develop more of this active, independent energy. They become more self-sufficient and feel empowered to take care of themselves, regardless of external circumstances. Conversely, as more men pick up the responsibility for the care of their children (either full- or part-time), they develop more nurturing, embracing feminine energy. They become more open to the feelings of others as they draw them out and encourage a shared value system.

Betty-Ann HeggieThis environment stretches both men and women, inviting them to supplement the natural energy of their gender with their opposite energy. Women no longer need to depend solely on their instincts to “tend and befriend”; likewise, a healthy dose of feminine energy counteracts the chest-beating so typical of masculine energy. Individuals that have the attributes of both energies available to them are more successful at making deep emotional connections, as well as standing up for themselves when the situation calls for it. And when these well-balanced individuals come together, both can have careers and play an active role in parenting. Such a partnership will reduce the stress and increase the personal and professional effectiveness of each person within the relationship.

We’re seeing this not only in the lives of us everyday folk, but also in the example set by the American President, Barack Obama. Everyone knows how important his health care agenda is to his administration, so he sent a strong signal when he took time away from important Congressional meetings to attend his daughter’ band concert at school. He also plans overseas trips around his daughters’ school vacations and always takes a break at 6:00 p.m. to have dinner with his family. While there are some that are critical of his actions, I believe that this public proclamation set an example for men everywhere that the role as “Father-in-Chief” ranks right up there with the role of Commander-in-Chief. He is displaying feminine energy and validating the importance of being a parent along with having a working life.

One paragraph from that New York Times article really stuck out for me:

In a sense, the 48-year-old president is reflecting attitudinal changes about fatherhood that are typical of men in his generation, said Ellen Galinsky, the president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research organization. Ms. Galinsky says men, now more than women, feel caught between work and parenthood; her surveys show that 59 percent of men report experiencing some or a lot of work/life conflict, up from 35 percent in 1977.

This shift in gender roles is a classic case of Gender Physics in action. When I was a young working mother it was unthinkable for a woman (much less a man) who aspired to be taken seriously as executive material to take time off for family activities. So I took a minimal maternity leave and my husband was very involved raising our daughters. As a result I have lived what many young working couples are now experiencing. I remember my husband taking our six-week-old baby daughter to the pediatrician when I was on a business trip. He was proud to be in that waiting room with all the mothers (who were surprised at his competence!), and thoroughly enjoyed having the inside track with the doctor and all the information acquired there. While I hated to miss these appointments, I was able to pursue my career knowing that my children were in the care of a loving parent. Each of us were balancing our energy by developing our opposite.

The fact that nearly 60 percent of men are now torn between work and family responsibilities shows that as their roles have changed, so have their expectations. Ultimately, it is changing their energy as well. Women led the way in developing their opposite when they entered the working world, and now men are having their opportunity to do the same as they assume more responsibility for parenting. It represents the evolution of our species: as the gender differentiation decreases, both men and women will openly access either energy from within themselves.