For years and years when we have talked about marriage and couples and bringing up the children, the assumption – to a large extent correctly – has been that it is the woman sacrificing her time to stay at home with the kids.
This is not a personal comment on gender roles, but merely a statement of fact. Statistically, more women stay at home with the children than men, even in the modern day when it is common for women to go back to work fairly swiftly in many cases.
Could the tide be turning though? A survey has revealed that nearly a third of male graduates would happily give up their career to be a stay-at-home father. Granted, it could be said that the kids-over-career wave of enthusiasm from men is equal and opposite to the undercurrent of negativity about the current job market they face. It does show though that they consider it a real option. Perhaps for the first time it is being seen as more than just a quaint quirk for a minority of families. Presumably this would be on the proviso that their partner could find a job of course, faring better than them in the job market. More opportunities for women than men in the working world right now? That’s a whole other debate.
But while this statistic in this particular poll suggests a move away from tradition, more than half the students quizzed also said traditional family values are still paramount. Fifty-seven per cent of women and 51 per cent of men believe it is important to be married before having children.
It gives a confusing picture: an enduring belief in traditional family values and yet a move, perhaps, away from traditional roles. I guess it is the motivation for the change in roles that is the key to understanding where we are heading.
What are the implications for family law and divorce settlements on this shift in traditional gender roles? In theory, the system should already be geared up to cope with any change like this. Off the top of my head, I can think of very little in family law relating to marriage and divorce that is gender specific (feel free to correct me!). Pre-nups, the Children Act, reasons for divorce, financial settlements on divorce – while they all will generally have areas that are traditionally more pertinent for men or women, there is nothing in the detail that says it is gender specific – for heterosexual relationships anyway. Same sex partners still cannot commit adultery being one of the anomalies I highlighted in a blog on civil partnerships just last month.
However, for what it’s worth, in my experience and that of my colleagues, house husbands are still few and far between. While they are likely to become more common than in the past, I do not expect to see a sudden change in society no matter what the jobs market is doing – or not as the case may very well be.