Let’s do this together!

The problems of the third shift are profound, complicated and widespread. The dilemma is entrenched in the historical representation of the genders, set of values relating to jobs and gender-specific labour markets, traditional masculinity and femininity, perspectives, convenience and the choice of individuals and couples.

Increased awareness of the interaction of different factors, which create and maintain unequal responsibilities at home, is more likely to prompt responsible decision making that will generally result in improved gender balance in society.

How do I start the conversation with my spouse / the members of family?

Most women in heterosexual relationships have presumably made an attempt, with mixed results, to get their husbands to share the load of household and family responsibilities. In order to bring change, couples must be able to have these conversations. The conversation on who does what, the conversation on the three shifts and the mental load. Various obstacles can hinder couples / married couples from having these conversations in a successful manner. For instance, the conversations can get on the nerves of the person who contributes less to the household. It is also common for couples to fight over matters that relate to the household, the mental load and the caring of the children. Often, the conversations may not result in a solution but rather a whirlwind of emotions and discordance.

Do you relate to always having fights over the same issues and to not getting anywhere?

There is no single solution for sharing the responsibility of the mental load. Even the most reasonable partners, fathers who are focused on equality and take an active part and others who try their best, may sometimes find it hard to listen, understand and take on a portion of the mental load.

The experience of professionals shows that uneven balance of household workload and couples’ incompetence to discuss the issues is a major factor in discordance, dispute and separation. Some couples / married couples could benefit from working on their communication skills in order to have these conversations and to better understand one another and listen without letting the emotions take over. Not only does this level out the mental load, it also enhances the quality of the relationships and promotes equality in a larger context.

What about...

  • Stereotypes, fixed and oversimplified ideas of the competence and ability of people who belong to a particular category, e.g. based on gender, typically mold people’s character. The notion that women have a greater capacity than men to communicate affection and manage the household and children prompts them to take on that role. While men are frequently considered to lack concern and care for the home. The ones who challenge traditional stereotypes, e.g. men who take on greater responsibility for household and family and women who are the primary wage earners, even face resistance or others’ condemnation.

    It is important to recognise the existence of stereotypes in order to counteract their effects. Occupying traditional gender roles based on stereotypes can be the simplest, most convenient and most effortless way in which individuals conduct themselves. At the same time, however, we are maintaining and recreating gender history and establishing it. For instance, establishing who takes on the mental load.

  • Conventional values, attitude and behaviour mixed in with written and unwritten norms are some of the things which creates a culture in the workplace and institutions. Inherently, culture varies between workplaces and even varies between different departments within the workplace. Culture is maintained in the interaction between individuals, society and situations at any given time.
    It is important that spokespersons for workplaces and institutions regularly review the ways in which the culture promotes or prevents equal opportunities of individuals. Does the culture truly promote gender equality and equal opportunities, or are there hidden factors which will impede the process?
    It is important that men are given the opportunity to take paternity leave, as it can be a key factor in leveling out responsibility of the second and third shift at home. Icelandic men are focused on equality within society and are willing to share the family and household workload; however, one of the obstacles is workplace culture. A report carried out by the Nordic Council of Ministers on parental leave sheds light on how the attitude of employees and managerial staff can discourage employees from taking parental leave. Men even feared losing their jobs if they took their paternity leave, in particular when exceeding the minimum duration.
    It is important to keep an eye out for gender traps, unregistered and unpaid jobs and tasks in the workplace which are often placed on women. This includes roles which do not fall under their occupational profile, e.g. recording minutes, calling meetings, serving coffee, organising coffee and baked goods, tidying up after meetings, watering the plants, lighting the candles and other related tasks, and at times, nonverbal requirements which fall on women’s shoulders. Not only does this result in the fact that women then begin to take on the second and third shift in the workplace and their specialisation and knowledge are thus minimised compared to their peers, this scenario can also pave the path for further subordination and harassment.