New generation doesn’t follow traditional parenting roles

Men and women are more alike than was at one time thought. | Getty Images

Q: I have been watching my grandson and his girlfriend for these past few years and the more that I see them the more that I wonder if the way in which the world is going is all that great.

My concerns are with gender roles, and who is to do what around the house.

It was relatively easy back in the day when we were raising our children. Charlie spent most of his days and evenings either in the barn or out on a field somewhere. He was too busy to spend much time with me and the kids. In fact he did nothing around the house.

Fast forward to my grandson and his girlfriend and I find myself taking stock of this super busy guy, changing diapers, feeding the kids, making supper, washing their clothes and often as not doing the nightly baths for the kids before soothing them to sleep. His wife does all that stuff too and I suspect that sometimes they are literally tripping over each other to get things done.

It is like chaos around their house. Why can’t they go back to the old ways, when moms were moms; the compassionate ones and the place where kids felt safe and secure?

We know that women are more compassionate than are men so why not let them be that way, nurturing their children and pouring the foundations of compassion to the well-being of all children? Maybe the old ways were not so bad. What do you think?

A: You and the Dalai Lama seem to have a lot in common. Both of you believe that women are generally more compassionate than men and that women should therefore be given more opportunities to show their support for others.

The problem is that I am not so sure that women are all that much different than men. Neurological psychologists, given two brains, one male and the other female, cannot tell which is the male brain and which is the female brain. They are very similar to each to other.

Given that our brains are fundamental to our cognitive processes, it would suggest that men and women are more similar to one another than they are different.

The same is true for compassion. Men and women are more alike than was at one time thought.

As a species, we survive by being sensitive to other people during difficult times. The more we support and encourage our neighbours, the better are our chances that they will be there for us when the tables have turned against our favour and we need help. Helping each other is a long tradition within the human species.

So what is different between men and women? Not that much. What is different, and which is being challenged by your son and his partner, are the ways in which they show compassion.

For years, women showed their compassion in the soothing tone of soft lullabies sung to those in distress. Men were the brazen ones, risking life and limb for the kitten stuck in the upper limb of a tree.

It is all drawn from compassion, but each is different.

The differences between men and women were drawn from things they learned growing up. Little boys were taught to be brazen, to not cry despite the pain, loneliness and sorrow. Little girls were taught to be loving and caring, to give out hugs and kisses, even if at times they did not feel terribly compassionate. But these were artificial distinctions and they needed to be challenged.

Your son and his partner are doing this; they are challenging their traditions. They are teaching their kids to be brazen because they feel brazen, not because they happen to be male.

They are teaching their children to be soothing, not because they are female but because they are calming and supportive people despite their genders. This is great. It means that as your grandchildren grow up, they will become the persons they were intended to become, not that which a social norm dictated.

What wonderful people they are going to be. Perhaps life is a little more confusing at the moment, but are you ever in for a treat with some super grandkids as the tide unfolds.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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