In Depth Society, 20/06/2020

Family in Modern Society: Busting Gender Stereotypes on Sharing Household Chores

A happy family is based on love, care and mutual respect. Inside it, everyone, taking into account his or her gender and age, typically takes over certain household duties. This brings together householders in one friendly team. Otherwise, there will only be vanity, but little value. A family schedule should be drawn up to avoid this problem. It will be the key to the overall efficiency and set the right rhythm of everyday life.

How has family and everyday life developed historically?

According to the journalist Yulia Stoyko, the classical model of the distribution of domestic responsibilities between spouses has been formed ages ago. It means that the man’s family responsibilities are limited to making money, and the woman takes on the sacred function of the homemaker. Today when some women are equal to men in making money, and their civic position is more active, the old scheme has become total archaism. Therefore, in the context of such radical transformations in society, postulates of family life should be reconsidered according to the spirit of the new era. At the same time, it is crucial to preserve the very sacred meaning of the family hearth, the significance of which will never undergo any devaluation.

How are gender roles distributed in the modern family?

According to the Rating sociological group opinion poll concerning the distribution of gender roles held in February 2020, the respondents state that 64 percent of women do the cooking in their families. Only about a quarter of poll’s participants notes that this role is split equally in their household.

Respondents note that women are more responsible for childcare and doing household chores (52 percent and 43 percent, respectively).

Concerning free time availability, the answers are the following: for women, this option comprises 33 percent, for men – 30 percent, both genders have 28 percent of free time.

Meanwhile, 39 percent of men are regarded as the heads of families, for women the rate is 29 percent, and 29 percent share this role equally.

More than half of the respondents believe that it is a man who earns more in their family, 23 percent think a woman is the main breadwinner, 17 percent believe that both earn about the same amount.

In dynamics, since 2015, there has been a gradual decrease in the number of those who believe that women are more often involved in cooking, housekeeping and raising children. Despite this, the number of those who consider that women have more free time dominates the family and earns more money is growing. Interestingly, in the distribution of such roles as cooking, doing household chores and raising children, the opinions of men and women are not much different. But with respect to family leadership and making money, there is a completely opposite vision of these roles for both genders.

The vast majority of respondents agree with the statement that the woman’s most important task is to take care of the household and family (83 percent) and the man’s crucial task is to make money (75 percent).

Are gender-stereotypical tendencies being still strong in modern society?

Yulia Stoyko thinks that the trouble with many modern women is that, despite significant changes in rhythm and living conditions, they remain loyal to the old pattern. They are stirring boiling borsch with one hand while feeding the child with another one. At the same time, they are writing the annual report, turning the steering wheel of the car on the way to the gym, because they also have to stay beautiful.

How can household duties be equally shared with all family members?

Yulia considers that household chores should be divided between all family members. It is possible that the idea of sharing of responsibilities will not be supported by everyone immediately. The process of adaptation in family time management mode involves persuasion and cooperation. In this case, it is important to stay calm and respect each other, even if something does not work out right away.

To start with, it’s better to set clear tasks for each relative and discuss how to perform them at the family meeting. It is important to remember that setting goals on the basis of gender is nothing more than a dodge, which is not used in women’s favor. In fact, the husband’s domestic responsibilities are equal to those of the wife. It is time to abandon the assignment of sexual characteristics to household duties since they have always been stereotypes.

Can kids be assigned household chores?

Children can be assigned to duties they can cope with. In this case, the result is not as important as the motivation to act. Parents should bring up a hardworking child and focus his or her attention on the fact that their loved ones need help.

How family members could be motivated to perform housework?

Everyone should be praised for his or her help. Gratitude is a limitless resource as a display of love. Attention and praise are powerful motivational techniques for new achievements.

The family is like a complex mechanism. The key to its coordinated work is the good functioning of all elements and each of them is important. Household chores are an integral part of family life. It’s clear that a strong relationship depends directly on sharing household chores correctly. Only through a sharing functional family, each member can feel a sense of collective achievement.

Is it possible to create such a family that is based on freedom, honesty and understanding, to combat “medieval stereotypes” when the family institution was based on the obedience of the weak to the strong? Maryna Zherebna, the economist, financial director of a small company, shared her thoughts on this topic with the Kharkiv Observer correspondent.

Kharkiv Observer: Maryno, can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your family?

Maryna Zherebna: I am 45 years old. I graduated from Kharkiv State University (Karazin Kharkiv National University), I’m an economist by training. At first, I gained some experience in the family business, then I worked in the treasury, tax office and bank. Then I had to take maternity leave after I had my first son. After that, I worked for another bank and had a break for another maternity leave. Later I was redundant due to bank failure. I had really tough times then and was forced to register with the labor office. Currently, I work as a financial director in a small furniture company. I am married and I have two sons: 17 and 8 years old.

Kh.O.: When and why have you become interested in gender issues? Perhaps there was an impetus for this?

M.Zh.: I took an interest in gender issues probably with childbirth when a new awareness appeared. I wish our family was child-friendly, especially with me, so that I would become their adult friend. Unfortunately, I was brought up in a far too different family. My parents were not friends with me as I expected, everything was similar to other families. But in the family that I have built, I wanted freedom, honesty and mutual understanding. And now, in fact, having a “medieval experience” when the family institution was based on the obedience of the weak to the strong, it historically turned out, the well-being of the family is based on the ability to adapt and the submission of the weaker partner to a stronger one. Society, religion and other aspects of life were built on restrictions and violence adjoint with it. Women had to survive in such circumstances. All this led to the struggle for women’s rights which started in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was focused on overturning legal inequalities, particularly addressing issues of women’s suffrage.

Kh.O.: Maryno, what family model is relevant nowadays?

M.Zh.: In my opinion, it is irrelevant to transmit to children a model with deep-rooted responsibilities, where everyone has his or her duty, for example: walking with children and cooking is on mum while earning, mingling with society is for dad. It was hard for us when I worked at the bank, but we were equal, we didn’t share responsibilities for yours and mine, we did what was needed. For example, both of us could do the cooking when we had time. We worked and felt guilt and responsibility for our children because while working we did not pay enough attention to them, and when we did not work, we could not provide them with everything that in our opinion should be given. Actually, for me, everything related to gender is about the respect and worth of each person, not gender, affiliation or social achievements.

Kh.O.: What family values are relevant today? Do you think that a two-parent family is more harmonious?

M.Zh.: I do not like the stereotype of a two-parent or single-parent family. We are all mired in stereotypes. Actually, family values are not about the number of parents, their skin color or traditional views. Most importantly are the quality of life in any family, mutual respect, care, etc.

Kh.O.: What role should the state play in family formation? According to Aristotle, the family is the first step towards state formation.

M.Zh.: The state, as always, is not up to the family. Now it has only one role: it registers marriages and divorces. No matter how trite it may sound, but in any case, a good beginning is half the battle. Both children and parents should be given the opportunity to study family issues. In controversial situations, every family should have a chance to contact a family psychologist. In conflict situations, various state bodies should be obliged to consider issues objectively, and not to take the side of the person who can pay more.

Kh.O.: Maryno, what is your family model: do you have matriarchy, patriarchy or partnerships? Do all your family members have equal rights to make decisions?

M.Zh.: We most likely have partnerships. Everyone has equal rights. My husband Valerii is better versed in technology, so choosing a laptop for the eldest son or a tablet for the youngest son is still better to discuss with him. But when it comes to buying clothes, it’s better to go shopping with mum because mum knows when and where clothing sales will happen. Both mom and dad can go and change tires on our car. It depends on who has free time at the moment.

Kh.O.: Who is more responsible for family values: a man or a woman?

M.Zh.: If we are talking about a family and it has values that are cherished by each family member, then both a man and a woman will value them.

Kh.O.: Which principles are a strong marriage based on?

M.Zh.: Marriage is an enterprise based on partnerships. I consider we live with a person not only for his or her good personal characters but rather because we can tolerate his or her shortcomings. Or I should say: for accepting a person’s manner and ways.

Kh.O.: How are responsibilities distributed in the family context nowadays?

M.Zh.: From an early age, both girls and boys are held to a higher standard. It is no longer relevant to distribute household duties this way: women clean up the house while men are breadwinners. Both can work, both can clean up or pay for cleaning company service. Anyway, everything works differently in each family.

Kh.O.: Maryno, how are chores shared in your family?

M.Z.: My husband and I studied in the same group at university. We have completed all stages of our family formation together: experienced two financial crises, have evolved from an ordinary specialist to a leading manager, from a leading manager to an unskilled worker, worked in public institutions and started a private business. Finally, we realized that no one owes anyone. Any issue could be discussed and sorted out.

Kh.O.: Do your children help you with household chores? Do you have to make them perform their duties or your sons are enthusiastic and eager to offer assistance?

M.Zh.: Sometimes they offer help, sometimes I ask for it myself but I never force them to do anything.

Of course, children have their own duties: for example, only men at our place clean our apartment: the youngest son Oleksandr picks up his toys and all things from the floor, my husband and my eldest son Viktor hoover and mop the floors. Also, Oleksandr’s duty is watering plants but sometimes he forgets to do it. Viktor throws garbage out, sometimes he does the shopping or may cook dinner and feed everyone if I’m busy.

Kh.O.: How have quarantine restrictions influenced your family?

M.Zh.: Our family usually spends time in the country house which belongs to my parents in spring and summer. Everyone works there, even those who do not want to. Since quarantine started, we stayed in the countryside for almost two months. As this lockdown fell on spring months, Viktor dug gardens, cut down old trees, chopped wood, planted potatoes. He worked in the garden in between breaks in his homework. This year he is graduating from school and has to prepare for External Independent Evaluation. Oleksandr helped to plant new trees, onions, carried firewood. Of course, we did everything together, under the strict guidance of grandma and grandpa, but no one turned work down. This has not always been like this previously. Everyone wants to relax in the countryside, the children have always complained that they “were working like dogs” there. But we had relaxing evenings and cooked on the barbecue. Nobody assigned duties – everyone worked as something had to be done.

Kh.O.: Why do love and self-respect become the foundation of love and respect in all aspects: both in the family and in interaction with others?

M.Zh.: Both men and women were born and brought up focusing on the ingrained “male” or “female duties” without taking into account individual characteristics. But no one highlighted that you need to listen to yourself – this is as a component of self-love, acceptance of yourself, self-discovery, stand out from the masses, understanding of your own desires, ability to prioritize. Only knowing and loving yourself for who you are, only if you are honest with yourself, you can respect the feelings of others and love your close ones with sincere honest love. It’s difficult for me, for example, to cope with the fact that I’m bad because I can’t play the piano or make dumplings. Imagine that my family blamed me for this, while I could, for instance, fly a plane. Such stereotypes are a consequence of the equalization system where “male” and “female” are separated from each other.

Kh.O.: Maryno, how can we overcome gender stereotypes and patterns with which we came to the world?

M.Zh.: Learning is our main conclusion. For example, if my son comes to his father and asks to bake a cake for him, he will not send him to his mother. He will Google the recipe and learn how to bake a cake.

When I need to master another profession in order to earn more, because my son needs additional Maths lessons, I will master another profession, even if it will be an auto mechanics job.

Kh.O.: What conclusions has your family come to?

M.Zh.: We say “No” to the rigid assignment of duties, but “Yes” to taking into account the characteristics and needs of each individual and respect for each other. This is our evolution as a family, and there is something we leave to our children so that they will be able to build their lives without limits.

Of course, the problem of “fathers and children” has not changed, but I still believe that my children will take advantage of our family model.

Kh.O.: Maryno, what would you wish our readers?

M.Zh.: Couples should talk, study and analyze all the questions that arise in the family, between family members, and issues that children will ask you whether it’s buying a telescope or cigarettes. Explain why it’s good or bad for them. Listen, study, read. We should say “no” to criticism but “yes” to critical thinking, analysis of the situation.

Text: Natalia Ivanova

Photo: domopravitelnitsa.com, rvb-news, Maryna Zherebna:

The material was prepared as a part of Gender Sensitive Space of Modern Journalism, implemented by the Volyn Press Club in partnership with the Volyn Gender Center, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Internews international organization.