Redefining gender stereotypes – balancing work and family life

I’m a mother of two and although currently on maternity leave, I cannot wait to move onto the next phase even though my baby is just five weeks old. I’ve been to work twice, hosted Skype meetings and constantly respond to emails. I’m on a three hour cycle of endless breast feeding, nappy changes, housework and never ending battles to get baby to sleep. My four year old has been amazing. She’s sensitive, supportive, helpful, as well as funny and spends a lot of time talking/singing to the baby, which to my relief the Gizmo likes. I also share responsibilities with my husband and whilst we are working on splitting the mundane more evenly, we have established that the children benefit greatly from our involvement.

However, the definition of gender roles is still very traditional and women can judge men just as often as employers penalise men for prioritising family commitments at work. It has taken almost a year for others to acknowledge that it is ok for my husband to participate at “the stay and play session” or take photos of the children at the indoor soft-play area while I work. As the only man at the play area, the mum’s view him with a certain amount of distrust and rarely welcome him into their social circles.

This gender stereotype is further enforced by UK government policies. For example, reforms for childcare policies prioritise women as the primary caregivers for children. The government claims affordable childcare costs with subsidies that are paid preferentially to the mother and easily accessible by working families. But as women become more empowered at work, sharing responsibilities can be challenging, especially when coordinating work schedules that are equally important on both sides. For example, companies offer more time for maternity (52 weeks) than paternity leave (2 to 26 weeks) with women, rather than men taking time off work for family reasons.

Like all families, we’re working on improving our partnership since our actions will shape the path for the future generation. I’m hoping that when the girls experience adulthood in 2035, they will not be influenced by gender stereotypes that has typically restricted women for hundreds of years. By working together, our rebranding will break the cycle with greater equality for men and women to balance work and family life.