Do Fathers Undervalue Their Importance as a Parent?

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Statistical data unequivocally proves that involved fathers have a positive impact on a child’s well-being. However, society and the law undervalues their importance. In this research article I will be:

  • exploring whether fathers are confident in their role as a dad.
  • analyzing the reasons discouraging fathers to claim an equal role in childcare.

This article has been compiled after researching findings of recent reports and studies, and evaluating the longstanding gendered roles. Four men, who have been parents for a while, were also interviewed to gain their insights. These include (in alphabetical order) Hakim Malik, father to 2 daughters, Inaya, 6 years old and Daanya, 3 years old; Inam Abdullah, father to son, Raaif, 3 years old; Jazib Ahmed, father to 2 sons and 1 daughter, Mekail, 8 years old, Abaan, 6 years old and Zaynah, 3 years old; and Talha Asif, father to 1 son and 2 daughters, Alina, 5 years old, Hadi, 3 years old and Amal, 9 months old.

Maslow’s hierarchy is often displayed as a pyramid, with representation of needs in a gradation. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep, and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are for safety and security. In light of Maslow’s hierarchy, parenting can then be segmented. Providing adequate food for the family is primal to meet the basic physiological needs of a child. Food is frequently associated with feelings of love, security, and well-being. This implies that to meet the lowest level needs, parents need to ensure a continuous stream of resources to provide for their child.

Over the years the cost of living has significantly increased which is encouraging both the parents to get involved in paid labor, and add a second income. Research indicates that wives who are employed outside the home contribute more to homemaking chores than do their husbands, and that individual incomes strongly influence the division of labor in the home. A study found that “the more a husband earns and the less money a wife makes, the less the husband’s share in domestic work (including looking after the child)”. Therefore, often times it has been observed that it is the mother who is attending to the basic level needs of their children.

As we progress beyond the physiological, safety and security needs, the levels become complex. These include the need to gain respect and appreciation of others, and achieve one’s full potential. It has been found that (opposed to mothers) fathers play a critical role in meeting these needs.

Commenting on this, Jazib Ahmed says that, “one of the main goals of parenting is to make your child independent. It is not your job to provide them with everything, but it is your job to teach them everything so they can provide for themselves”.

Agreeing with this, Talha Asif says that, “fathers are better equipped to provide guidance to their children, and to act as a friend and a mentor to them. Mothers often, don’t have the patience, since they need to attend to household chores as well. My children have always come to me for advice, or to seek solution to a problem”.

He further adds that the efforts a father puts in, may not be visible in the early years of a child unlike the instant gratification provided by mothers (in terms of meeting hunger needs, or the need to be loved). He says that, “the results start showing when the child turns 5. By that time a child’s moral compass and sense of awareness starts to function, which becomes evident especially among a group of children.”

Fathers then agreeably have a significant impact on a child’s upbringing. This has also been substantiated by multiple researches and studies that highlight how involved fathers not only benefit their child, but themselves as well.

However, fathers are unable to express confidence in their parenting.

In a survey conducted in 2017, 63% of fathers expressed that that they spend too little time with their kids, compared with 35% of mothers who said the same. In addition, fathers are also less positive about their own parenting abilities than are mothers. Just 39% of fathers said in 2015 that they were doing a “very good job” raising their children, compared with 51% of mothers.

An involved father, Hakim Malik says that, “mothers do a better job at parenting since generally they are better at multitasking and putting their kids’ needs in front of their own”.

Inam Abdullah, concurs, and says, “If I were to pick the one parent who does a better job, I’d choose mothers”.

Talha Asif also adds that, “mothers are unmatched in their role, since they have a higher resilience level. Men are unable to maintain discipline like women. Mothers have stronger instinct, high patience level and are better multi-taskers”.

Despite understanding the importance of their role in their children’s lives, why are fathers not confident enough to participate and claim an equal role in childcare?

The reasons can be broadly categorized.

Maternal Gate-keeping

Just like mothers need acceptance and emotional support, fathers do as well. However, many a times, women unintentionally discourage men from parenting, just because they see it as not ‘fit’ to their parenting style. Because mothering is their realm, some women micromanage fathers and expect them to do things their way, said Marsha Kline Pruett, a professor at Smith College and a co-author of the new book “Partnership Parenting,” with her husband, child psychiatrist Dr. Kyle Pruett.

This phenomenon is known as ‘maternal gatekeeping’. Maternal gatekeeping refers to mothers acting in ways to discourage or promote father-child interactions. It includes a mother’s protective beliefs about how much and whether a father should be involved in their children’s lives.

Jazib Ahmed nods at the idea, and says that when it comes to children his wife is a “control freak”.

According to Sarah M. Allen and Alan J. Hawkins, mothers control the father’s household responsibilities and/or interactions with their children because of 3 reasons:

  • Reluctance to hand over responsibility to another family member. Mothers may show hesitation in handing over a child’s responsibilities because fathers may not exhibit the confidence to assume responsibilities. Taking care of children in short episodes does not make men as competent as women to carry the invisible load of parenting. It is also a hard and undervalued work and men often feel relief once handing the child back to the mother.

Talha Asif supports this by saying that, “If I had so much to do (including household chores and taking care of children), I will look for an excuse to escape from the tasks”.

  • High standards mothers set for execution of tasks and how to interact with children.
  • External validation of a mothering identity. Culturally, mothers face immense pressures, most of which make them feel as though they could and should be better moms, no matter how well their children are doing.

“Gatekeeping really seems to depend on how much a woman internalizes societal standards about being a good mom,” Schoppe-Sullivan said. “The more you care about (being viewed as a good mom), the less likely you are to give up control over that domain.”

The strength of the marital relationship also contributes to this phenomenon. The way in which a mother uses gatekeeping to marginalize a father’s role can be much more conscious and deliberate in a dysfunctional family, especially with a highly controlling mother at the helm or one in which marital tensions run high. Men then withdraw to protect themselves.

The more gatekeeping from mom, the less parental involvement from dad.

“Just by saying maternal gatekeeping exists doesn’t mean all the responsibility should be on women to manage men. But it still serves as an impediment to the quality of the relationship between fathers and their children … and is part of the very complicated puzzle of how gender plays out in families,” said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, a professor of human sciences and psychology at Ohio State University who has studied maternal gatekeeping.

Work-Life Balance

Despite overall increasing gender equality, a survey of 20 countries found that both men and women named financial provision as the primary responsibility of fathers. In essence, this makes employment the minimum requirement for father involvement and in more traditional settings, the only requirement.

In times of today, when the lines of gendered roles are diminishing, young couples may attempt to establish equal divisions of domestic work. However, it has been observed that after the child is born, parents slowly end up taking on more traditional roles of parenting.

One of the major factors, contributing to this is the disparity in the parental leave.

Out of the 195 countries around the world, more than 120 countries provide paid maternity leave and health benefits by law. On the contrary, there are 92 countries where there is no national policy that allows fathers to take paid time off work to care for their newborns. This discrepancy involuntarily compels mothers to establish patterns of primary health care, while the father’s attempts at care slowly wane when his performance is seen as not on par with the mother’s.

Granting paternity leave has been proven to prevent this slide into gendered parenting and promote more equality in child-rearing. Fathers who take any paternity leave at all are much more likely to change diapers, feed the baby, and get up in the night with the child than fathers who do not. Conversely, it was also found that fathers who work longer hours report a decrease in these activities.

Apart from the labor laws, there are also stigmas surrounding extended leave that influence men differently than women. Many are reluctant to use paternity leave for fear of being seen as uncommitted and unmanly. In addition, perceptions about paternity leave are also linked to lower performance evaluations, increased risks of being demoted or downsized, and reduced pay and rewards. Men also fear potential career consequences: specifically, fathers who are seen by bosses and coworkers as engaging in higher than average levels of childcare are subject to more workplace harassment and more general mistreatment as compared to their low-caregiving or childless counterparts. Finally, men who interrupt their employment for family reasons earn significantly less after returning to work.

Besides the discrepancy in parental leaves, maintaining a balance between work and family is a challenge for many working fathers. About half of working dads (52%) said in 2015 that it is very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family life. And about three-in-ten working dads (29%) said they “always feel rushed”. This maybe because most fathers face a lot pressure to provide financially for the family. About three-fourths of adults (76%) said in a 2017 survey that men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially.

Men with more traditional views of the provisional father role tend to work longer hours and experience greater amounts of work-family conflict.

Hakim Malik says that, “maintaining a work-life balance is essential for fathers in order to be present for their kids, but often times it is impossible to achieve. I think the biggest hindrance is from the work front. So for instance, if there are both male and female colleagues in a team, the male counterparts would be expected to stay back post normal working hours since culturally they are not expected to go home and complete essential household chores such as cooking, cleaning etc.”

Inam Abdullah agrees and says that, a work-life balance is difficult to maintain “possibly because of the environment or culture at the office”.

Institutional Sexism

According to a study, by Children North East, there are prevalent subconscious practices that disregard the needs of men and fail to recognize the role of fathers.

Joy Higginson, director of Children North East says that, “Fathers are important for families, yet almost all formal support to parents is offered only to mothers – with deep-seated sexism in social and health services actively discriminating against men”.

Fathers are fearful of how they are viewed as a subordinate parent and how that view is generally reinforced by the family courts. Many fathers feel that they are viewed as second-class parents, who may be granted limited “access” to the lives of their children, even where they previously shared parenting responsibilities with their partner.

This bias is evident in cases where the immediate family is not involved. When a father becomes a sole parent as a widower, and it is our brother, our uncle or our cousin, we do not immediately assume that a father cannot be a good parent because in this case he is our relative. It would seem that it is only when we are angry or in conflict that powerful current societal norms rise to the surface, and push fathers back to a secondary or lesser role as a parent.

Despite being capable providers, husbands, and fathers (within the context of a family), men have been inaccurately portrayed and encouraged by the media. According to recent shows (especially American sitcoms) the father of the family is shown to be a man-child; a little more than children, mentally speaking, unable to valuate or think critically about anything beyond the basic drives (sex, food, and entertainment). A classic example is that of Homer Simpson whose “personality is one of frequent immaturity, frequent stupidity, dim witness, selfishness, laziness, and explosive anger”. With the representation of such a negative stereotype, the responsibility of child can then not be assigned to an irresponsible adult.

Lack of Tools for Measuring a Father’s Involvement

Over the past 50 years, there has been nearly a threefold increase in the time fathers spend with their children.

Agreeing with this trend Hakim Malik says, “I think gradually the boundaries between a father’s roles and those of a mother’s are becoming more blurred. Regardless of the role a father plays I think the end goal is the same for everyone, which is, making sure their kids are happy, healthy and safe”.

It can easily be declared that compared to the previous decades, the involvement of fathers is at an all-time high at the moment. The roles of fathers have shifted from a focus on being a “breadwinner” to involvement in childcare, emotional nurturance, and co-parenting.

Commenting further, Hakim says, “I think the expectations from fathers are evolving. There are often situations where the expectations are greater than what I manage to accomplish in which case the efforts do go unrecognized or unappreciated”.

The prevailing model of father involvement introduced over 30 years ago posited that father involvement consists of 3 main components: accessibility (availability to spend time with child), engagement (father’s direct interaction with his children), and responsibility (planning, monitoring, and supervising roles). Although, it was researched that the 3 components are equally important, the ease of measuring the engagement of fathers with their children took precedence and revealed a misleading picture. So if a father reads to their child every night, he would be considered involved, as opposed to a father who may be working 2-shifts in a day to meet his financial needs. The aspect of availability was then ignored.

This approach was critiqued, and a new father involvement model was developed. This model of father involvement consists of 3 domains – positive engagement activities, warmth and responsiveness, and control as well as 2 auxiliary domains – indirect care and process responsibility. This added depth to fatherhood models by proposing that father involvement is generated by motivation, skills, self-confidence, social supports, and the absence of institutional barriers. However the study of this model faces a number of challenges, including the shift in gender roles in modern families.

There is then a need to develop multidimensional measures of father involvement that also take into consideration the evolving gender dynamics. Such all-encompassing measurement tools will be able to provide an accurate representation of the involvement of fathers and reveal how much engagement has an impact.

Fathers tend to do things differently, Dr. Kyle Pruett said, but not in ways that are worse for the children. Fathers do not mother, they father.

Commenting on this, Jazib Ahmed says that, “both the parents should be all-rounders. Fathers should know a mother’s role and vice versa, so either parent can better adapt in situations where the other parent is absent”.


While it has been established that fathers have a significant impact on the upbringing of their children, fathers are still not confident about their parenting skills. Factors that have been preventing fathers to actively get involved include: discouragement from the mother’s end (maternal gatekeeping), work-life imbalance, subconscious practices that disregard the needs of men and fail to recognize the role of fathers, and inadequate measures to evaluate the involvement of fathers and its effects.

The belief that women are more emotional than men is one of the strongest gender stereotypes held across cultures. Women too, often describe themselves as more emotional than men.

But what do we actually mean when we consider women to be more “emotional”?

And is this assumption true?

In this research article I will be:

  • explaining the concept of “emotional capacity”.
  • investigating the link between gender and self-limiting beliefs, levels of adaptability and the ability to maintain quality relationships.
  • exploring whether women have been consciously burdened to carry the weight of emotional labor.

This article has been compiled after researching findings of multiple reports and studies, and evaluating the gender-emotion stereotypes with the reasons behind their formation. This article also includes the interview responses of Dr Aneela Ramzan, a Clinical Psychologist at the Sindh Institute of Medical Sciences (SIUT), Pakistan and a Visiting Faculty at SZABIST – Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Karachi, Pakistan; and Zeina Habib, Project Manager and Life Coach (ACC – International Coaching Federation).

What is Emotional Capacity?

We can begin describing “emotional capacity” by breaking the word into separate components.

According to the book “Discovering Psychology” by Don Hockenbury and Sandra E. Hockenbury, an emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response.

Capacity as described by the Cambridge Dictionary is the individual’s ability to do something.

Combined together, ‘emotional capacity’ then is an individual’s physiological response and their behavior when they undergo a unique event.

According to The Predictive Index (which overcomes workplace challenges through a unique blend of scientific behavioral assessments), emotional capacity is a measure of

  • your ability to overcome limiting beliefs,
  • your ease in adapting to challenging situations, and
  • the quality of your relationships.

These are the unique events, the response to which, once gauged, measures an individual’s emotional capacity.

We can look at these three instances separately:

1. Ability to Overcome Limiting Beliefs

According to the National Science Foundation, an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative. If we allow our negative thoughts to become repetitive thoughts, they will transform into negative beliefs which becomes our mindset.

The origin of beliefs can be traced back to the conclusion we may draw from a past experience. For example, I may not be able to lift a sofa because I have tried multiple times and I do not have enough strength to do so.

Limiting beliefs are mental obstacles we often create for ourselves because we believe they keep us safe from difficult situations, challenges or failures. However, this is untrue, and limiting beliefs often prevent us from realizing how much we can push ourselves, to explore our potential.

Common reasons for developing limiting beliefs include cultural expectations, gender stereotyping and societal pressures.

Dr Aneela says that women are more likely to develop self-limiting beliefs because of the patriarchal culture prevalent in the society. According to her, “women be it a mother, sister or wife, want to see their son, brother or husband grow and achieve more. These same women fail to breed similar aspirations for the women of their family. However, times are changing and exceptional cases are growing”.

She adds that there are also subtle differences in the way we raise girls. Quoting an example, she says that, when a mother asks her daughter to forego a task and assigns it to the son (because the mother thinks the son is more capable) she establishes a pattern highlighting who is in charge and who is in power. Women then automatically grow up believing they cannot do everything, and will require support.

Another factor she quotes is the lack of safety for women in the society they grow up in. There are cases of harassment and molestation prevalent widely. There is then a genuine physical threat to women, who try to do things on their own.

Besides these factors, there is also an element of being sidelined simply because one is a woman. Commenting on this, Zeina says that, “women are more likely to be discriminated against, be the victims of assaults and have more difficulties being heard. In addition, the topics that concern women are also deemed taboo (from sexuality to health to body image)”.

She further adds that, “limiting beliefs are enhanced when we think we are the only ones who have them. The more prevalent they are in a society, the easier it is to fight them”.

This does not mean that women are weak. But, these are some of the factors that threaten to rob them of the mental strength they need to be the strongest and best versions of themselves.

According to Jaqueline Lapa Sussman, one of the foremost practitioners of Eidetic Imagery Psychology (a fast moving methodology which allows one to go beyond their rational surface mind and uncover stored images of their potential and wholeness), each woman brings her own unique history of being raised as a woman to her work environment based on her culture, religion and developmental history. These socialized impacts are wired in the neural pathways in the brain and act like knee jerk reactions to life and work situations. Some of these automatic reactions unconsciously impede a woman’s capacity to succeed without her ever being aware of it.

The key to overcoming self-limiting beliefs is self-confidence. Individuals with high levels of confidence have both high self-efficacy and low fear of failure.


Self-efficacy is the belief we have in our own abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully.

According to Dr Julie Carson, an Associate Professor at the Department of Educational Leadership at Mankato, “on self‐efficacy scales, men tend to over inflate their actual capabilities while women are much more modest in their assessments”.

Women are often subject to self-doubt as well, and according to LinkedIn Behavioral Data, women not only tend to apply to 20% fewer jobs than men, but are also more hesitant to ask for a referral from somebody they know at the company. Female workers lack the self-confidence of their male peers and this hurts their chances at success. However, recent studies are showing that women have recently started considering themselves to be equally capable as men.

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is when we allow fear to stop us from doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals. To overcome the fear of failure, it is important to redefine failure. One of the ways to do that is to undertake risks.

Many girls learn to avoid taking risks and making mistakes. Boys, meanwhile, tend to absorb more scolding and punishment, and in the process, they learn to take failure in stride. Many psychologists now believe that risk taking, failure, and perseverance are essential to confidence-building.

According to in her book, Mindset, Carol S. Dweck explains that this phenomenon is further exacerbated by different patterns of feedback. She says, that, “boys’ mistakes are attributed to a lack of effort, while girls come to see mistakes as a reflection of their deeper qualities”.

We then witness the vicious cycle of girls losing confidence because of self-doubt, and the intention to avoid failure which does not ‘permit’ them on a personal level to engage in risk-taking behavior. They avoid competition, thereby depriving themselves of one of the best ways to regain the confidence they had lost in the beginning.

2. Ease in Adapting to Challenging Situations

In Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, Pi, the protagonist, is able to survive on a lifeboat with a tiger because of his adaptability. He was able to weather the changing circumstances and despite reaching a point of desperation, he knew he could only survive if he took the smart approach of becoming flexible. In his case, the circumstances were forced upon Pi. But even if you are willingly changing your situation, your ability to adapt in the new settings influences your happiness, health, stress, and well-being.

Dr Aneela describes two scenarios how one adapts to challenging situations: (1) developing effective coping strategies without harming their mental well-being, or (2) exhibiting high levels of tolerance and acceptance of the challenging situation (weathering the storm).

She says that as far as dealing with the challenge in a healthy way is concerned, there is no significant gender difference. Men and women are attributed to have different kinds of coping strategies (females are tilted towards emotional strategies and men are inclined towards finding practical solutions). Depending on the kind of challenge, men and women use their strengths to develop the strategies that they see fit to find a resolution.

Commenting on the second mechanism, Dr Aneela says that women often equate adapting, to molding themselves into accepting the untrue fact that suffering is a part of the challenging situation. Through false reinforcements by society, women are trained to suffer, and go through abuse and not complain. This mechanism is however, unhealthy and is effective only at the cost of the woman’s mental and physical health.

In light of Dr Aneela’s first adaptability mechanism, we can look at how Allan Calarco (co-author of Adaptability: Responding Effectively to Change) describes that to improve one’s responses to change in the future, they need to practice the 3 components of adaptability: cognitive flexibility, emotional flexibility and dispositional flexibility.

Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility is the human ability to use different thinking strategies and mental frameworks to face new and unexpected conditions.

Adaptation does not always happen. In situations where a person should be flexible in order to deal with changes in the environment, but fails to do so, we refer to cognitive inflexibility. For instance, if a friend, who always replies to your messages promptly, fails to do so one time, you may assume he is ignoring you, instead of thinking of another reason for his failure to reply on time. What is the problem? It is possible that we are not taking into account how he was feeling under the weather last we met him, or that his battery was dying.

Cognitive flexibility is at times also referred to as task switching. Individuals with higher cognitive flexibility are able to “switch” between tasks at a faster rate. This means that if a plan changes, they are better at processing the new information and developing a new plan, or removing the obstacles. This may then mean that multi-tasking is reflective of a higher cognitive flexibility.

Historically, multitasking has been seen a skill mastered by women, although this is not true. According to a study, women are actually no better at multitasking than men. Although men can work equally and have the capacity to do so, they don’t.

Stereotypically, women have been assigned to carry the load of housework and that is why they do more and can do more than one tasks. Since men do not get involved in developing the ability to switch tasks, they fail to develop cognitive flexibility. Furthermore, a study reveals that stress impairs cognitive flexibility in men but does not significantly affect women.

Emotional Flexibility

Emotional flexibility is the ability to implement emotion regulation strategies. This refers to an individual’s capacity to hold the different emotions at the same time – happiness, joy, and enthusiasm along with anger, sadness, and frustration — and being able to feel differently at various points throughout the same day and perhaps even the same hour.

If you have had a bad morning because you burnt your toast, you may feel frustrated or angry at that time. However, if you extend your feelings of negativity throughout that day (despite finding out your favorite pair of shoes are on sale or your boss has called in sick – reasons to be joyful), you may be exhibiting emotional inflexibility.

Emotional flexibility is not inherent, it is learnt. To perfect this skill, it is very necessary to ‘feel’ the emotion you are experiencing. Only when you recognize you are feeling sad, angry or stressed, will you be able to manage your negative feelings.

Emotional flexibility is a skill that men are discouraged from practicing. Men are taught from childhood to hide their emotions; that “real men” are emotionally stoic, that real men “man up” and tough it out.

On the other hand, women are labeled as “emotional beings” and therefore, have the freedom to learn the skill by trial and error. However, it may seem that there are only a limited number of emotions that women are ‘allowed’ to express. According to the Gender Role Congruency Theory, females are stereotypically weak and submissive whereas males are tough and dominant. Therefore, an angry female expressing a gender-incongruent emotion (anger) is perceived as less favorable. This means that once women start exhibiting darker emotions like anger, frustration or sadness, their reactions are attributed to hormonal changes or deemed feminine. Decades of patriarchy and consequent internalized misogyny has created this image of femininity being associated with weakness. Therefore, when women display emotions, they are labeled as weak. Women, subconsciously then, are forced to repress these feelings, hence, closing off the process of healthy emotional awareness. Women start to doubt their emotions and the repressed feelings, at times, culminate to enforced emotional inflexibility.

Dispositional Flexibility

Dispositional flexibility is the ability to remain optimistic and, at the same time, realistic. Realistic optimists believe they will succeed, but also believe they have to make success happen — through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies. They recognize the need for giving serious thought to how they will deal with obstacles.

Men appear to be more optimistic than women in a variety of settings. However, no study to date has attempted to check these differences against reality; that is, whether men are correct in their more optimistic beliefs, and furthermore, whether and to what extent they adjust their beliefs to new information. There have also been found gendered differences in optimism with women widely found to be less optimistic than men.

This may be linked to women having higher self-limiting beliefs (which can be negative or self-critical) and force women to make realistic assessments against what they can do and their abilities . There is a strong link between the two since the degree of optimism depends on self-esteem.

3. Quality of Your Relationships

While the concept of quality is highly subjective, it is important to realize that in the context of relationships, one needs to give priority to their relationships so they sustain in a healthy way. This means that an individual makes active efforts to cultivate their chosen relationships by expressing their interest, communicating and receiving reciprocity, which strengthens the relationship.

Sharing her insights on how quality is defined in a relationship, Zeina says that the participants in a relationship should, “have shared values, ability to cater to each other’s emotional needs, an element of trust and knowing to distinguish conflicts that can be resolved through communication”.

According to Google, one of the definitions of quality is, “general excellence of standard or level.” We often use the word “standards” in relationships when we actually mean “tolerance.” Women have been witnessed to “listen to our partner’s woes, forgive them the absences, the forgetfulness, the one-track mindedness”; basically tolerating the taxing and under-acknowledged acts of gendered performance. This is the concept of emotional labor.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Professor Emily Grundy of the University of Essex said that, “there’s evidence that women spend longer on domestic tasks than men and I think they also do more emotional work – so they still do more housework and cooking and things as well as more emotional labor”.

Women are consciously forced to carry the burden of maintaining the quality of a relationship. The way men are raised and women stereotyped to be emotional creatures, it is often assumed that women are simply better at carrying, expressing and understanding emotions. This is also reinforced by the position of the woman in her family where the children are encouraged to seek the emotional help of the mother when they are in distress.

A Canadian study that analyzed the satisfaction of nearly 2,000 heterosexual couples in committed relationships, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, found that women putting in the work made for a happier relationship overall. This implies that women are putting in the emotional labor to maintain the quality of relationships, at the expense of an emotional inequity.


Over decades, women are stereotyped to have the capacity to be emotionally aware not only of themselves, but of those around them. Compared to men, women seem to have an increased emotional capacity, since they rate higher on 2 of the 3 measures of emotional capacity as developed by the The Predictive Index. These include a measure of one’s ability to overcome limiting beliefs, one’s ease in adapting to challenging situations and the quality of one’s relationships.

Due to multiple factors women have higher limiting beliefs that prevent them from exploring their true potential. However, women are seemingly more adaptive at challenging situations because they have increased cognitive flexibility (owing to the ability to multi-task), increased emotional flexibility (managing emotions through trial and error) and increased dispositional flexibility (as they are considered more realistic than men). Women are also better at maintaining the quality of their relationships because historically they have been carrying the burden of emotional labor.

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