Here’s Why The Roles Played In The Modern Family Should Be A Matter Of Individual Choice

Posted: February 22, 2017

The modern family need no longer play by arcane rules of gender roles. Every family should decide for themselves what role the individuals in it play.

Sometimes, in our enthusiasm to to extinguish patriarchy and gender bias, we lose sight of the 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?

The family is a team

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.

Of choices that can be made

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.

Dad could prefer to work and mom could prefer to handle most of the domestic duties.

Mom and dad could both want to work and they could share their domestic duties.

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.

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 to 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.

Each family is unique

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.

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Published here earlier.

Image source: By Bill Branson (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to

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  1. Excellent post Kanika ! If families are hoping to continue to be workable solutions of group living – various flexible options of redefining roles, their expectations and fulfilment will have to be offered to its members. Members cannot continue to play by some archaic rule book which has little relevance to the demands and circumstances of the current day. Parents of young children need to ensure that the right understanding/expectations of how successful teams work and problem solve, is communicated and internalised by kids so that they can go on to make wiser choices and decisions regarding the achievement of work and family obligations. All the points you have made Kanika, are critical to how modern families can develop a framework of living and fulfilling their responsibilities, while simultaneously providing enabling, nurturing support and care to its members.

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