As a mother to two lovely children and the primary breadwinner throughout our 35 year marriage, I can tell you with complete honesty that the predictions made in Lisa Mundy’s new book, “The Richer Sex,” are already here. Women are getting better educated, and after entering the workplace in droves, are securing higher starting salaries than at any other point in history.
Score one for the ladies!
As a matter of fact, many women are financially supporting their families while their husbands are spending their time performing household duties and caring for children. In some cases, it is the man’s main occupation.
Isn’t it wonderful that we’re finally reaching a point where every family will be able to decide what is right for them? This new reality provides the woman with the freedom to unabashedly pursue her career aspirations while alleviating the man of the very real burden of having to slug it out in a job he hates in order to provide for his family. I can tell you from my own personal experience that the world is going to be so much better off when we are all freed from the shackles of these antiquated societal expectations. But, it will take nothing less than a paradigm shift in expectations to achieve this on a large scale.
It all boils down to context. Anything new and unusual that people haven’t seen before is “out of context”, and as creatures of habit, anything inherently new makes us nervous. When I was young and someone did something confusing, I’d turn to my mother for an explanation. Her first response was always, “Let’s put it in context”. Then, to help me understand, we would analyze the situation by considering where the person came from, and what had influenced their actions.
No matter what our age, humans are the same. We don’t like change and hang onto every unfamiliar situation along with our doubts. Until we see more real-world examples of successful role reversals between men and women, they will continue to be “out of context”. And people will continue to react as they do in Mundy’s book, where both men and women equate masculinity with being the breadwinner, and everyone questions the manhood of males in non-traditional roles.
Both men and women are losing out in a big way, and I’d like to share my own story in the context of some of the main points in Mundy’s book, in the hopes that it will help legitimize the role reversal.
- More families will be supported by women than by men.Check.
Such was the case at our house. I have recommended this strategy to many of my high-achieving women colleagues and friends who wanted to have both a successful work and family life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched career-oriented women seek out a high-earning male, only to watch her walk away disappointed. Alpha males have a tendency to want someone to play second-fiddle, and my fabulous, stand-out, pay-their-own-way-thank-you-very-much friends were a threat to their masculinity. When these women turned to a man who was willing to support her career, it seemed to work well for everyone. I do a lot of mentoring of young women and I always say, “If you want a career and a family, choose your husband carefully”. Come to think of it, this is sage advice for ALL women!
- Women will do less housework as men continue to do more. Check.
At our house, my husband, Wade, is affectionately known as “The Kitchen Nazi”. He has completely taken over and isn’t happy with how anyone else loads the dishwasher. (It’s a hard life, I know. Send care packages to help ease the pain.)Anyhow, I remember coming home from work one day when our children were little to find my husband installing a new washing machine. He said, “It’s been broken for a week, but you never do laundry so you wouldn’t know.” I replied “alright!” and went along my merry way. And why wouldn’t I be merry? Wade gets our whites whiter and our brights’ brighter and even took over our annual holiday letter. He said it was because his penmanship was superior but really it’s because if had we waited until I had time to do it, it would’ve been an annual Holiday in mid-May letter.
- Women’s economic influence will be great for business.Check.
There is a lot of data to support this idea, but even better, it will be good for families. Women’s natural priorities are our children, so our spending tends to be focused on things that enhance their lives. We make “soft” ideas, such as education and healthcare the focus of our disposable income. I used to say that Wade and I would eat wieners and beans for a month to be able to afford to take our children on a vacation to show them the world.
- Men will do more hands on parenting. Check.
I did a lot of traveling for my job and clearly remember one time when Wade was driving me to the airport. It was very early and still dark outside and as we drove, I lamented that I was feeling guilty about not being a good mother by leaving so often. My husband turned to me and sternly reminded me that many men in my office were leaving their kids with their wives feeling 100% confident that the children were being well cared for. “What are you telling me?” he said, “That I am a less than sufficient parent?”Check, mate.
- Definition of masculinity will adapt and expand. Check.
In reality, masculine characteristics go unchanged and they continue to be assertive, action-oriented, and competitive. But the acceptance that men don’t have to be wholly masculine is growing. Every person, regardless of gender, is a combination of both genders, and none of us are entirely masculine or exclusively feminine. In fact, research shows that we are more similar than we are different. Further to that, each of us will have more satisfaction and higher self-esteem if we can access the attributes of both energies. My husband, who is the original ‘boy’s boy’, often jokes that he is a man with a lot of feminine energy. Certainly, it served him well to use his feminine energy while he was parenting our kids, just as a good dose of masculine energy helped me be effective as a butt-kicking senior executive.
- Women will struggle with what privileges, if any, come with earning more. Check.
There is no doubt that when I came home tired from work that I expected my husband to wait on me more. For example, Wade thought that rocking out to Burton Cummings was instrumental in preparing Caesar salad for dinner. But, after a long and arduous day at the office (no offence to Burton), he was the last person on Earth I wanted to listen to. So, I would ask if something more soothing could be played, and Wade would reluctantly comply. The guys on his old-timer’s hockey team, envious of his lifestyle as he accompanied me on business trips, would often say they wanted to be reincarnated as “Betty-Ann Heggie’s husband” and Wade would truthfully reply, “Be careful what you ask for. It comes with a price.”And a serious reduction in Burton Cummings.
- Women will have to adjust to what they truly value in men. Check.
My grandparents were German immigrants who farmed outside a small Saskatchewan town. My Grandpa wasn’t much interested in the fields but was passionate about flowers, so he focused on the garden. My Grandmother loved agriculture and producing wheat so she ran the farm. My Grandma adored her husband and didn’t love him less because she was doing the traditionally masculine job while he was doing the traditionally feminine one. It’s just that, in those days, they probably didn’t brag to the neighbours to save face. Maybe their situation put things in context for me and made it possible for my husband and I to construct these unconventional roles before others were doing so.
The universe is evolving and to live our best life, we have some simple ABC’s to follow:
A: Accept the new reality and Adapt;
B: Bravely give up old stereotypes of what we need to do to be masculine and feminine. We are all ‘Better Being Both’; and
C: Consider Context. My story is one but there are lots of examples out there to give us the Comfort that this will work to everyone’s advantage. We just have to build a bridge and get over it!