Between work, home, Greek mothers pull double shifts

At the dawn of the 21st century, after decades of women have struggled for emancipation and financial independence, after rejecting and then exalting motherhood, the question is: What has really changed in the roles shared by women and men in the home and in family circles? Widespread research conducted in seven European Union member states on the work women and men do in and out of the house (both paid and unpaid labor) has revealed that traditional roles remain strong. Men are still considered the «breadwinners» of the family and dedicate little time to bringing up their children or to household chores, while women remain responsible for the upkeep of the «nest» and its members. The only thing that appears to be different is verbal: Men will say how much they appreciate their partner’s contribution to the upkeep of the home and care of the family, and claim that their own contribution to household chores is «self-evident» when their partner has a job. Reality, however, is very different. While research shows that in northern Europe the dominant trend is for women to take part-time jobs, especially when they have small children, in the south, women appear to have a much tougher deal. «Modern» southern European men feel that the care of children and the family’s elders is a «woman’s thing» and they make a negligible – if any – contribution to domestic matters, while simultaneously stating their displeasure at women taking full-time jobs outside the house. The most vehement supporters of women’s right to work, Greek men appear to have simply modernized the old mentality that wanted the man in the coffee shop and the woman at home after the two had worked together in the fields. This situation has led women – both in Greece and the rest of southern Europe – to so-called «obligatory altruism» (which is just a prettier way of describing the immense weight that has been placed on their shoulders), while it is also greatly responsible for the increasingly low birthrates in Greece.