The Modern Family: Drop The Labels

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Sometimes, in our enthusiasm to to extinguish patriarchy and gender bias, we lose sight of he important stuff and follow formulas and mantras. Do we forget, that is what got us here in the first place?

What does equal partners really mean in a marriage? Does it mean that each partner does exactly half of everything from child care, taking care of a multitude of tasks that are required for a functional family, to providing financially?

In my opinion, this is a simplistic definition. If we adhered to this definition, families would become quite inefficient and pointless. I believe, families are like a team. If everybody does what they are best at, contributes their fair share to all left over tasks and fills in for each other in times of illness or other crises, then families can be run in a smooth and efficient manner with much joy and happiness.

Does this sound like the traditional family where mom takes care of housework and dad of earning money? Possibly but not necessarily. The traditional family is but one of many possibilities.

Feminism has freed women from the shackles of house work and shown them endless possibilities of the world around. But feminism is most importantly about the freedom to make choices, and not have society dictate those choices for people, weather they are traditional, modern or fashionable.

Families work best if every one gets to choose. Mom could prefer to work and dad prefer handle a bulk of the domestic duties, or dad could prefer to work and mom could prefer to handle most of the domestic duties, or mom and dad could both want to work they could share their domestic duties, or both partners in a couple could want to focus on their career and not have kids, and then there could be couples where both want to focus on family life and they both work to earn just enough to have a comfortable family life.

There are a myriad of options and possibilities and degrees to which husband and wife may want to invest in work and family. The important thing is that this be a discussion between them, where each gets to freely voice their opinions, so the couple can work out a fair compromise making the most of their individual interests and abilities, taking into account what support systems they have available to them.

When each family member is contributing is a way that suits them best, then the family is as productive as can be and stress levels are low. It is quite unlikely that a couple can work out an arrangement that is perfect for them both, so compromises will have to be made. There are two important points about such compromises.

The first is neither should feel cheated or taken advantage of. If that is the case they should voice their concern, because no matter how close and loving a couple is, one partner may not always be able to accurately read the mind of the other. And if resentment is allowed to fester it will eventually sour relations.

The second is, for each partner to learn to appreciate the complexities and value of work put in by the other, whatever that work may be. Often seeing someone else do work makes their work seem easy, because we only see the results and don't experience the struggle. By contrast our own work seems far more worthy because we have intimate knowledge of all the difficulties involved.

Finally it is important to realise that each family is unique, and there are no set rules for who should do what. If one lived alone they would have to do everything, but the advantage of living in a family is each member can take on a greater share of the work they are most suited to, adding to the efficiency, productivity and happiness of the family unit.

It is not for either modern or traditional society to decide what the role of each member should be. Feminism endeavours to bring more choices for everyone, men included, so we can optimize productivity and happiness and minimize stress and resentment, in family life. Let's drop the labels and make the family the focus.

Tags: women, patriarchy, social, family