Even in a down economy, unemployed men can’t catch a break with the ladies. A recent survey found that 75 percent of the 925 single women polled would have a problem dating someone without a job. Only four percent of respondents said they would not hesitate to date an unemployed man. A generation ago, these answers would go unquestioned. But in 2012 women need to give their answers more thought. No one should have a moocher for a partner, but women can no longer rule out supporting their significant other.
The days of the man as the primary breadwinner are done. A lagging economy has made it harder for everyone to get a job. And men will be especially affected in the coming years. Women surpassed men on the payroll for the first time in 2010. And for the first time in American history, there are a million more female college graduates than male. As recently as 2000 it was the opposite. American women are receiving more college diplomas than men, and are more likely to pursue an advanced degree. It is inevitable that there will be more women than men in the workplace for a long time to come.
The roles men play in the society are changing dramatically. A few years ago, stay-at-home dads were a novelty. According to the most recent Census, the number of stay-at-home fathers in the United States has more than doubled in the past 10 years — up to 154,000.
The feminist movement taught women that they could have it all. A high-powered career, supportive spouse and 2.5 kids were a birthright to us all. Now, women are beginning to realize that having it all isn’t possible.
Men never had it all to begin with. They were able to pursue careers because women were expected to devote the bulk of their time to maintaining the home. The juggling act of work-life balance is now something both genders must master.
A consequence of women making gains in the professional world is that everyone’s view of gender roles needs to be adjusted. Men need to find new ways to contribute to the household and feel needed outside of “bringing home the bacon.” Women can no longer pigeonhole men into the role of provider.
While uncomfortable, shifting away from traditional gender roles is for the best. Supporting a man may go against long-held ideals of chivalry, but you may be doing yourself more harm than help holding out for a mate whose career is just as high-powered as yours. Life is full of trade offs. If you want to devote most of your energy to your career, other areas of your life will suffer. If you don’t want a nanny raising your children, you will need a spouse with more time to devote to home life.
Traditional gender roles brought simplicity to relationships. Modern times demand that a partnership rely on a balance of responsibilities, not outdated roles based on sex. Relationships just got a little more complicated, and we’re all going to have to take a more nuanced view to make them work.