I was recently at a dinner gathering with seven other women friends ranging in age from 31-42--most of whom are in their late 30s and early 40s. Of the eight, three of us (myself included) are married, one is in a serious relationship, and four are casually dating. All women are highly educated (from engineering degrees to JDs to PhDs) and hold senior-level jobs. Looking around the table, I was reminded that while we represent a small portion of the population, we also represent a very important group: women with high profile careers yet still in successful relationships.
Any woman in this demographic who complains her man isn't doing things around the house is seriously at fault. The reverse is true as well. Any man who complains his woman doesn't have an identity outside of being a workout fiend and/or consummate shopper is equally at fault. We can have it all ... personal life, career, success, decent looks, and good health. More importantly, we have it all because we have the choice to go after whatever we want in life. We choose to have careers (or not). We choose to be married (or not) because we don't have to marry the first person that comes along. Why settle for someone who has such a small range within his or her identity? This is not about gender equality. This is about being with a person who loves you enough to want the best for you.
For example, my husband and I both have advanced degrees. We hold full-time jobs. There are times during the week when I won't get home until late, but my husband has no issue handling the more "feminine" roles in my absence. By the time I get home, dinner has been made, and our 7-year-old has had her bath and done her homework so that we can all sit down to dinner before she goes to bed at 8pm. This is how the household of 2014 and beyond should operate. There is division of labor that has nothing to do with one's gender. It is simply about working together and supporting each other to make life fluid. (And yes, I do my share of household duties too!) My husband would never say to me, "You can't take that meeting at 5pm. You need to get home earlier to get dinner on the table." He cares enough about me and my career that he's willing to do whatever it takes on the household front so I can have the opportunity to make an impact in the world.
Any woman or man who complains about their partner not stepping up to support them has no one to blame but themselves. If you never communicated what you wanted or needed from the start of the relationship, you have trained them that you will take on more than your share. You have trained them to expect you to be Superman or Superwoman.
So who is enforcing these gender roles and stereotypes in the U.S. among white-collar workers? Us. We are all guilty. The New York Times ran an article on November 9, 2014 called, "The Leave Seldom Taken." It states that when men take paternity leave, they are typically looked down upon; there is fear taking paternity leave might limit them in their careers. This is not a gender treatment difference. Regardless of who takes on the responsibility of doing household duties or childcare, there is stigma associated with it.
Who, then, reinforces this notion that it's not okay? It's the people you work with who frown upon the woman who leaves work early. It's those who frown upon the man who takes paternity leave beyond the 2 weeks typically allotted. So thank you to people like Tom Stocky, VP of Search at Facebook who was cited in the New York Times article for taking 4 months of paternity leave. Tom, you are helping to lead the way for many others who stand up to the "bullies" that are role discrimination and unconscious bias.
So if we are all guilty of reinforcing gender roles, then the woman who is married to a jerk who won't help out around the house or the man who is married to a self-absorbed egomaniac who is uncaring about his emotional needs is at fault for accepting and reinforcing his or her personal circumstances. In today's society, you don't have to accept less than optimal conditions in marriage and in life. You have choices. You can hold out until you find the right person instead of settling. You can freeze your eggs. You don't have to have kids. You have choices. Don't accept anything less than what you deserve. There are plenty of people out there who feel the same.