Separation Of Work and Home
June 19, 2013

Separation Of Work And Home

We all have our comfort zones especially when it comes to gender norms. For some, the traditional gender roles of female as caregiver and male as breadwinner are so ingrained in us that any deviation results in confusion, suspicion, or outright bullying. According to the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, workers who take on non-traditional gender roles are treated differently.

Differently is not quite the right word. People who had non-traditional caregiving, whether that was women who worked or men who stayed home or whatever, were treated worse than those who followed the traditional roles. As the article explained, “Overall, the studies found consequences for any employee who violated traditional gender roles when it came to having a family. The least harassed in the office? Fathers and mothers who followed more traditional gender norms; that is, men who did less caregiving and domestic tasks at home and women who did more.”

To find these results, researchers looked at “two separate field studies, each using mail-in surveys. The first was targeted at unionized workers in female-dominated occupations and the other was targeted at public service workers in a male-dominated workforce.” The studies showed that men in more caregiving roles, women without children, and mothers with non-traditional caregiving arrangements were treated worse than men and women who adhere to the more traditional gender roles. And though men who were caregivers were treated poorly, women without children and women with non-traditional caregiving arrangements were treated worst.

These findings really are a shame. I recently wrote about the rise in stay-at-home dads and working moms. In that blog, I explained how the Pew Research did a study about the gender roles and their changes. It found some ambivalent feelings such as half of those surveyed by Pew felt it is better if mothers stay home with young children, while eight percent think it is better if fathers do, yet nearly 80 percent of Americans do not think mothers should return to a traditional 1950s middle-class housewife role.

Clearly, we have some room for understanding here. If a female who is a parent chooses to work while making non-traditional caregiving arrangements (i.e. grandparents, nanny, partner, daycare, whatever), then that worker should not be seen as less. If a male chooses to be more involved with the caregiving, then he should not be hounded for his interactions. If a female chooses not to have children, no matter her reasoning, she should not suffer the consequences at work. These individuals make personal choices that really have no bearing on their professional work lives. None of them deserve to be treated worse than other, more traditional workers.

I am a bit outraged that what people do in their personal lives particularly in terms of their family planning and caregiving choices has any bearing on how they are treated at work. Whether or not I am a mother who is the main caregiver really has no affect on how I perform at the office. Colleagues should have the respect they deserve based on their contributions to the work place, and no one should apply superfluous judgments about personal family choices. What works for one family may not work for another. No one should feel pushed to do what is “traditional” just because the Joneses say to. Who are these Joneses anyway?

I adhere to the policy that my professional life and personal life are separate. I rarely talk about my personal life at work and try to avoid talking about my professional life at home. Both are important factors in my own life, but I simply do not want them to overlap too much. Perhaps if more of us practiced this separation, then others would not have any room to judge. Or maybe if we just mind our own business and treat everyone with respect and honor, then the work place will be a better, healthier place for all.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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