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Shattering Stereotypes: The Fluidity of Gender Roles in Family Life



When I gave birth to my first baby, she looked so fragile that I thought I could easily break her bones. My husband, recognising my apprehension, took on the role of caring for her, feeding her, and bathing her. He did the same with the rest of our children. This has led me to jokingly tell my children that it will be their father, rather than me, who will stay with them to provide support when they have babies. I would like to point out at the outset that my husband is very confident in his masculinity; he does only what he wants to do and embraced these roles with joy.


The Journey of Role Reversal: Embracing Unconventional Roles

This pattern of my husband taking care of the children continued until they became adults. He would bathe them, take them to school, church, and the physician, and practically do everything for them. I have often said that my husband is a better parent than me, and our children agree. His dedication extended to every aspect of their lives, even rushing home to prepare their food when they were babies, despite my being a work-from-home mum. Though we had baby sitters, my husband never allowed them to bathe or feed our children.


Breaking Gender Norms


A Different Perspective on Gender

A colleague, a Commonwealth Scholar, who used to visit our home a lot, found my husband ironing clothes nearly each time she came. She jokingly said that in my home, there was no gender. This resonated with me because I never saw anything wrong with my husband taking responsibility for things I was either afraid of doing or did not particularly care for. I do believe that it takes a very self-assured man to embrace unconventional roles without concern. All who have been to our house are aware of that; if you find my husband sweeping, he will continue doing so. I do not sweep because of my allergy to dust. I know of some men who are involved in housework but fear to be seen doing so, their concern being, "What will people think?"



Childhood and Family Influences

I grew up in an environment where men, both workers and family members, served my mother and showed deep respect for her; I lost my father when I was very young. Both boys and girls in my family were raised to be involved in housework, taking turns doing different activities. The absence of gender stereotypes in my upbringing, coupled with the fact that I attended all-girls' schools for both primary and secondary education, shielded me from the conventional gender norms prevalent in society. Growing up in an age where the only screen we knew was the television, my exposure to gender biases was limited.


Questioning Societal "Truths"

The absence of gender discrimination in my upbringing led me to perceive men engaging in unconventional roles not as something out of the ordinary but as a natural part of family life. My husband's willingness to take on tasks often labelled as "women's work" did not seem wrong or unusual to me. It was a reflection of our shared values and understanding.


In fact, when I attended my first gender class and learnt about how girls were discriminated against, parents not sending their girls to school, women being overburdened with work, I questioned the validity of those "truths." Growing up, I believed that girls were more favoured than boys at home. I never heard anybody say boys were more intelligent, nor did I ever hear anybody discourage girls from excelling.


Lessons Unlearned

  • Gender Roles Can Be Flexible and Adaptable: The fluidity of roles within a family can be a source of strength and harmony.

  • Love, Care, and Responsibility Transcend Gender: These values are universal and not confined by stereotypes and biases.

  • Breaking Gender Norms Leads to Empathy and Understanding: Embracing different roles fosters a more compassionate approach to one another.

  • Fixed Gender Roles are a Myth: This idea must be dispelled to move towards a more inclusive and understanding world.


Concluding Reflections

The story of our family serves as living proof that gender roles do not have to define us. By embracing flexibility and stepping out of traditional societal norms, we have discovered a path to deeper empathy, understanding, and acceptance. The liberation from rigid gender norms is not just a personal triumph; it is a step towards a more compassionate world. It is a journey worth embracing, a legacy worth leaving.


Join the Conversation!

Are you ready to redefine what it means to be a family in the modern age?


1. How can you challenge conventional gender roles within your own family to foster a more harmonious and balanced partnership?

2. What steps can you take to break free from societal stereotypes and create a more inclusive and compassionate environment?


Let us embark on this journey together and move towards a future where everyone is free to be themselves, unburdened by gender expectations.



About the Author

Nite Tanzarn is an Independent International Consultant and an advocate for 'Gender Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity: Championing the Balance.' As a mother, Nite understands the complexities of raising children in a balanced, healthy environment. Drawing from her personal experiences, she provides insightful tips and strategies to assist other parents on their journey. This blog is part of her reflections and insights into family life, breaking stereotypes, and fostering understanding.

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8 comentários


Convidado:
05 de nov. de 2023

It is a mindset issue. You can do it if you believe you can.

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Convidado:
31 de out. de 2023

This should start from birth....from pregnancy. Avoid colors, toys and games that deliberately encourage gender stereotypes, such as pink for girls and blue for boys, barbie doll for girls and toy pistols for boys, etc.

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Convidado:
28 de out. de 2023

On my way to the field one day I was reading about gender division of labor in Africa. What I noticed during the focus group discussion was quite different from what I had just read. There were a couple of men carrying babies. When I asked why, both the women and the men said they had learnt about women's rights. The moral of the story, gender roles are not cast in stone. Jeanette

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
31 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

Dear Jeanette,

Thank you for sharing this insightful experience. Your observation during the focus group discussion truly underscores the idea that gender roles are indeed fluid and subject to change. Education about women's rights can make a significant impact, as demonstrated by the men carrying babies. It's encouraging to hear that awareness is leading to real-world change, challenging long-standing stereotypes. Your comment adds valuable depth to the discussion on the fluidity of gender roles.

Cheers,

Nite,

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Convidado:
28 de out. de 2023

Women can do all that men do and the reverse is true.

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
31 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

Thank you for your insightful comment. I wholeheartedly agree that capabilities are not determined by gender. When we set aside traditional gender roles, it opens up a world of possibilities for everyone in the family. Both men and women have the potential to excel in any role they choose, be it as caregivers, breadwinners, or emotional support providers. Your observation is very much in line with the message we strive to convey in discussing the fluidity of gender roles in family life.

Cheers,

Nite,

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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nsabimana canisius
nsabimana canisius
04 de set. de 2023

This is quite interesting. I do not see anything wrong with men carrying babies or cooking.

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
04 de set. de 2023
Respondendo a

Hi Canisius,

Thank you for your comment. It is refreshing to hear from someone who recognises the importance of challenging traditional gender roles in family life. The more we normalise men participating in activities like carrying babies or cooking, the closer we get to a more equitable and harmonious home environment. Your viewpoint adds depth to this important discussion.

Cheers,

Nite 🌟📝

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