Honey, I'm home" is the catchphrase of William H. Macy's character of father George Parker in the American fantasy-comedy movie Pleasantville, a film that centres around the idyllic Parker family, with Macy playing a stereotypical 1950s working father.
The stereotype of father as breadwinner is a well-supported concept, economically and socially popularised during the 1950s and 60s.
It harks back to the time in which careers were defined typically in terms of a person's relationship to an employer or organisation - linear in nature and taking place within the context of stable structures, with a person progressing up the firm's hierarchy.
However, established ideas about work and careers are continually being challenged.
Many people are now creating and crafting their own careers. Attitudes are changing and life spans are increasing.
A publication from the Equal Employment Opportunities trust, Workplace age and gender: trends and implications, states that 21 per cent of workers will be over the age of 55 by 2012. In the 15 years from 1991 to 2006, the age groups showing the greatest increase were the over-50s. The number of people in paid work aged between 60 and 69 has doubled and there has been a significant decline of those in the 20-34 age group.
These factors demand changes in workers' attitudes. Career and transitions consultant Kaye Avery says "an important key competency for 21st-century careerists is the ability to manage constant change.
"People also need to be proactive and to be prepared to undergo self-development to increase their social skills, to be personally responsible for their own performance and workplace interactions."
Responding to frequent change, which involves having the ability to be adaptive, self-directed and values-driven, are the two dimensions of Douglas Hall's Protean career concept, introduced in 1996 and based on the metaphor of Greek god Proteus, who could change his shape at will.
This concept is directly oppositional to one that involves commitment to a single organisation or line of work. A person's own needs, values and goals shape their career, rather than an organisation.
Another popularised concept, that of the boundaryless career by Arthur and Rousseau, describes career as being "one of independence from, rather than dependence on, traditional organisational career arrangements involving opportunities that go beyond any single employer".
"Boundaryless career" has become a term used for any new paradigm of career writing, highlighting the agentic nature of individuals.
Just as these concepts are becoming embedded in the vernacular, a new generation of career ideas has sprung up. A recent article published in the Journal of Management describes these new concepts to have monikers such as "Hybrid" and "Kaleidoscope", described not as an extension of protean or boundaryless careers but as an alternative lens through which to view career.
One of these new models, the Kaleidoscope Career Model (KCM) was developed by management professors Lisa Mainiero and Sherry Sullivan.
The metaphor of the kaleidoscope, which produces a myriad of changing patterns when rotated, is used to describe how people change the pattern of their career.
New patterns emerge when people rotate different aspects of their lives.
These permutations may be in response to internal changes, such as growing older, or to external changes, such as becoming redundant.
The idea is that individuals work with the available options and choose those which best fit their interests and values. One decision impacts on another and changes the pattern.
The KCM has three mirrors which parallel the theory's three parameters, or motivators:
Authenticity - in which the person makes choices allowing them to be true to themselves;
Balance - how the person achieves equilibrium between work and other non-work roles, such as family, friends and interests;
Challenge - the individual's need for stimulating work and career advancement.
All three are active simultaneously through a person's career life. The strength of one in shaping a career decision depends on other contextual factors in a person's life.
As a person continues to search for the best-fitting career to match the context of their life and character, the the parameters shift with one motivator moving more strongly to the fore. The other two then become less intense and move to the background. However, they are still active so all aspects are always necessary in creating a person's life/career pattern.
Research to successfully validate the KCM has also thrown up some interesting gender differences and given rise to two descriptors: the alpha and the beta pattern.
The alpha pattern focuses on challenge in early career, authenticity during mid-career and then balance later in career. Most men follow this path.
The beta pattern focuses on challenge early in career, followed by balance mid-career and finally authenticity. Most women (two-thirds of women studied) showed their changing career focus followed a beta pattern.
Results also showed that women and men defined their careers differently. Women examined opportunities and blocks and then forged their own approach, rejecting linear career progression, creating non-traditional, self-crafted careers. Their careers are characterised by various interruptions that required attention to non-work needs.
Avery agrees that women can be particularly persistent about forging their own career pathways in the search for a personal and authentic career. She described the case of a woman, a health professional in middle years, who retrained at Masters level in urban design, going on to work in a local body organisation, and who became a successful self-employed consultant. However, the process took her 12 years.
In contrast, Avery says that external factors often push male workers towards a change in focus from authenticity to balance.
She works with senior managers in the local body context when their roles are disestablished and develops alternative strategies for them.
"The issue for men who have historically been the 'breadwinners' is that they are in a career niche.
"At first some find it hard to think about balance - they are entrenched and feel a sense of authenticity in their career role and identity and can't see another way. It can take a redundancy or a health issue to recognise they would prefer to find balance.
"For an HR manager who doesn't get a role, this can come as a wake up call or be like a whack on the head.
"For men who face redundancy there is a lot of associated pride, especially in the case of senior managers."
Avery cites the case of a male manager in his 60s, employed in the armed forces, who was traumatised, went through a mental health episode and was manoeuvred out of his job. "Eventually he adjusted, found a new pathway and is now recognising the benefits of his new way of life.
"Once he was over the initial shock he saw it as an appealing choice. It can take a knock to get men to move into the next phase."
Avery advises anyone considering a career change to be prepared for the long haul, to be steadfast and not give up on the goal of re-establishing themselves in a new vocation.
"Often lateral moves rather than full stops can make the difference."
Whether the move is alpha or beta, towards a greater focus on balance or on authenticity, the benefits are clear and involve both personal and career development.
"Back yourself and believe in yourself."By Margie Elley-Brown