«You can be everything that you want!» – I grew up in light of this awareness. The first generation of girls who had the same opportunities as the boys now experience the first years of their professional career. But the phase of unlimited possibilities ends for many young women and men with the birth of their first child. Abruptly, the old role patterns return. In Switzerland, 80% live in a traditional family model: the man is responsible for the money, the woman for the family.
Like many of my colleagues, I lived rather independently when I had no children, I had a life in which equality at work and in the partnership was taken for granted. For me it was clear that nothing will change, even when I have children.
If I look around in my circle of friends and acquaintances today, the results are rather sobering: I barely know a couple with children that shares house- and paid work equally. It doesn’t matter who works how much, in private life it is still predominantly the women that do the housework, and the mother remains the primary go-to person for the children. Does it have to be like that even in 2019? Is the biological fact that the mother bears the children enough to cement the traditional maternal role and make her responsible for household and childcare? Independently of her individual skills and wishes?
Even though the men say, they want to do more part-time work, in reality only one of ten does exactly that. Women demand commitment of their partners in every regard. But they do not take on the burden of earning enough money themselves, so the man has more room. It’s high time that this changes. That requires that women give up their almightiness in the sphere of the household and raising of the children, and men claim their stakes in it.
With the movie «Disordered», I want to invite you not to take gridlocked role patterns simply as given, but to question them and to try out self-determined family models.
Equal division of work, amongst childless couples increasingly normal, can rarely be maintained with the transition to parenthood. If a couple gets a child, many follow again the traditional, gender-specific role patterns. Women invest three times as much time in children and housekeeping as men do. It is almost exclusively them that do laundry, stay at home when the children are sick and get up in the night to calm them down - regardless of how much they work.
This situation also manifests itself beyond the confines of the personal home, in the common Swiss family models. In 80% of household with children under seven years, the man is primarily responsible for the family income, the woman for housework and childcare. While 30% of them stay completely at home, 50% work part-time. Paid work and Housework are clearly separated and the woman remains financially dependent on her husband.
Only 15% of couples have a divide equally between childcare and chores, as well as an equal share of paid work. Even though the ratio between paid- and housework can be decided individually, on a personal basis, there are clearly fewer career opportunities for people that do part-time work and its dependent on the job market.
Still in the generation of my parents, motherhood had to be the goal and vocation of every woman, and fatherhood was tantamount to breadwinner. The gender roles were predetermined and not questioned as such.
These days, these demands have changed, insofar as women expects their husband to help actively and emotionally with raising the children and running the household. Similarly, men take it for granted that also the women contribute to the family income. The distribution of roles is increasingly questioned, and the resulting reassignment of task has to be renegotiated.
With second-wave feminism in the late 1960s, the role of women has massively changed. A self-determined way of life is now taken for granted, and women do not only work until marriage, but essentially for a lifetime. This serves the financial independence of women and the realization of their own perspectives on life. Wage work receives a similar significance as it does for men.
The role of men has not changed to the same extent. Of course, the patriarchal sense of entitlement has waned and more men are willing to orient themselves towards the family. But the growing involvement of men in family affairs is mainly centered on leisure activities with the kids, not housework and chores. Barely eight of a hundred men work part-time, but 90% claims that they would like to be home more.
According to surveys, men do neither feel professionally nor privately restricted by children. For women, however, the decision of having a child leads to a temporary break in work. Even though with increasing age women return to working life, at least part time, but two thirds of them assume that their career chances are drastically worsened. Only in 7% of households, women contribute half, or more, of the family income.
Women thus experience a discrepancy between the ideal notion of a family, where they share the work equally with their partner, and the real possibilities offered by life. With the addition of a child, women suffer from a shift of their responsibilities to more traditional tasks and have less time for themselves – in comparison to the fathers. They rather take on more burdens in work life.
This structurally determined conflict is often perceived by mothers and fathers as an individual conflict, as a personal failure to meet one’s own and the expectations of the partner