New Families, Few Role Models

By Joshua Coleman | September 1, 2007 | 0 comments

When couples come into my therapist’s office today, I see husbands and wives who have choices that their grandparents could have scarcely imagined. Among them are dual income couples, gay and lesbian parents, and stay-at-home dads. Yet many of these couples have a hard time navigating their new options. They’re torn between the choices available to families today and the gender identities that still linger from the families of yesterday.

For example, a woman who earns more than her husband may feel proud about her success, yet resentful if she prefers to stay at home like her mother. A husband who stays at home may find meaning and happiness in his role as a full-time dad, yet shamed by a culture where career and breadwinning are still central to a man’s identity.

Even so-called “traditional” arrangements have a different meaning in today’s context. Some working fathers feel envious that their wives get to stay home, or feel resentful that their wives don’t contribute to the family’s income, as do some of their friends’ spouses. Career women who choose to stay home may get joy and satisfaction from being mothers but feel stifled by the lack of intellectual stimulation that this role provides.

I have found that couples who fare the best are those who frequently express appreciation and gratitude for their spouse’s contributions, express their complaints in direct and healthy ways, strive to keep the channels of communication open, and share housework. I encourage couples to develop empathy toward the other for the inevitable mistakes that get made in marriages with few role models to emulate. Finally, I recommend that couples with children strive to prioritize their marriage and understand that it takes a daily investment of time, effort, and love—along with regular date nights, when spouses get time alone. The happiest marriages seem to be those where the parents recognize that children aren’t the only ones in the family who need quality time and support.

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

 
About The Author

Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., is a co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families and a psychologist with a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. His most recent book is When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along (HarperCollins). Visit him at http://www.drjoshuacoleman.com/

  

Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Most...

  
  

Greater Good Events

Mindful Self-Compassion: Core Skills Training
International House
December 9-10, 2016


Mindful Self-Compassion: Core Skills Training

This workshop is an introduction to Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), an empirically-supported training program based on the pioneering research of Kristin Neff and the clinical perspective of Chris Germer.


» ALL EVENTS
 
 

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!

» TAKE A QUIZ
 

Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.

Watch
 

Greater Good Resources

 
 
» MORE STUDIES
 
 
» MORE ORGS
 

Book of the Week

How Pleasure Works By Paul Bloom Bloom explores a broad range of human pleasures from food to sex to religion to music. Bloom argues that human pleasure is not purely an instinctive, superficial, sensory reaction; it has a hidden depth and complexity.

» READ MORE
 
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement