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The Pandemic is the Excellent Time for Males to Embrace 'Breadsharing' As an alternative of Breadwinning

April 24, 2020
Homeschooling Blogs

The new corona virus is forcing working parents to rethink their household and childcare responsibilities, with implications that could go beyond the current pandemic.

A recent national survey found that 66 percent of parents facing school or daycare closings say their lives have been disrupted. Regardless of whether you take care of older parents, take care of school children or maintain the household, the integration of work and private life has never been so difficult. And it falls disproportionately on women who remain the standard caretaker, teacher and cook, regardless of whether they also have a job. Traditional gender roles are not sustainable for a shutdown. The key to surviving the pandemic is to share the roles of breadwinner and caretaker rather than sharing them. Building greater equality at home also pays off when we get back to work. If we want more women in leadership positions, we have to share the burden at home and finally let go of the belief that women's careers are somehow expendable.

The reassessment of women's contributions also benefits men. Research has shown that men are better able to take their dual identity - care provider and parents - into account when their wives work because they can define the non-breadwinner success that they normally have to live up to. When the burden is shared to take care of their families, men can rethink their identities. It is often believed that women are the only ones who have difficulty “having everything” or managing the double identity associated with work and personal life. But men also struggle by denying them the ability to find out who they are outside of work and becoming more than just a financial service provider. The current pandemic has forced working families to rethink how fairly tasks are distributed at home. This gives everyone of us a greater opportunity to think about how we value men and women at work and at home.

The biggest challenge for men to deviate from the role of breadwinner is the risk of losing their self-esteem and social status. When men are not working, they give up their place in society because male identity is inextricably linked to the ability to care for something. If their work can no longer build their trust, men will have to find it elsewhere. Research examining how men deal with job loss has shown that not only do men have a high financial and emotional burden when they are laid off, they also struggle to feel like they are no longer real men. To realize the positive outcomes related to gender equality, we need to change our view of the role of men and women at home. These two roles are closely related. For example, men who viewed their spouse's roles or careers merely as support for their own careers believed that their work and commitment to the organization were number 1 priority. However, men who prioritized their spouse's careers were more egalitarian at home. By changing from breadwinner to bread distributor, men have the opportunity to maintain a fairer household and redefine their identity outside of work.

This can be accomplished in three ways. First of all, it is important to make the invisible visible by clearly recognizing which domestic and childcare obligations your household requires. This can be as simple as writing down all tasks and clearly assigning the different tasks. What makes coping with the role conflict particularly challenging for women is that the hours they spend cooking, cleaning, and providing emotional support to relatives simply go unnoticed. Without acknowledging the mental strain that women carry, it is difficult to have an honest conversation about who does what. Once the tasks have been fairly assigned, it is important that you have your activity from start to finish. No dishes next to the dishwasher or laundry on the bed so someone else has to take care of it. Having to do or track tasks can be as stressful as doing it yourself. Finally, it is important to reassess women's professional ambitions and men's identity outside of work. We need to create opportunities to explore our individual identities outside of the prescribed gender roles. For men, this means treating the professional ambitions of women as important as their own. For women, this means that understanding men's ambitions is not limited to the office. In this way we become bread distributors and collect the burden of work and domestic life.

Michelle P. King is Director of Inclusion at Netflix. She is the author of The Fix: Overcoming the invisible obstacles that keep women at work (Atria).

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