Much ink has been spilled on the work-life balance of mothers. There has not been a consensus about how women can best handle the pressures of family life and career and there have not been adequate responses (hello, year-long paid maternity leaves?). But culturally, we are aware that mothers who work outside the home face particular challenges.
What’s not often recognized is that there is also a juggle for fathers. A new report suggests that we need to broaden the conversation.
The New York-based non-profit Families and Work Institute has just released a report intriguingly titled, “The New Male Mystique [pdf].”
Authors explored previous data showing a spike in work-life conflict among fathers and concluded that many are suffering from an overload of cultural expectations.
A few key lines from the report: “The ‘ideal’ man today is not only a good employee working long hours to be a successful breadwinner, but is also an involved and nurturing husband/partner, father, and son. Some men struggle because they have traditional gender role values that may feel out of sync with the world of work and family today. Others struggle because society and their workplaces are out of sync with the realities of their lives. Thus, many men are caught between these old and new worlds and are bound to experience some conflict between work and family.”
Ellen Galinsky, the president of Families and Work Institute wrote in an accompanying statement, “men are experiencing what women experienced when they first entered the workforce in record numbers — the pressure to ‘do it all in order to have it all,’ “ (More key findings are below.)
This comes on the heels of the Pew Research Center report earlier this month that found that fathers who live with their families report to be more involved in children’s lives than ever before.
That Pew report also found that 63 percent of fathers today think it’s harder to be a father than 20 or 30 years ago.
It seems the current cultural expectations have both mothers and fathers feeling stressed out.
The FWI report’s authors focused on the fathers who reported less conflict and found a that work flexibility went a long way in alleviating stress.
Sound familiar? Women have been telling researchers (and employers) the same thing for years. The difference is that by now, many employers may expect a woman to need flexibility for family life. Men may need to forge a new path. They might be less comfortable asking for flexibility or their office culture may not have caught up with the change in the air.
“To truly improve men’s lives at work and at home, change needs to occur at all levels — from individual attitudes about work and family to effective workplace design and cultural change that dispels the mystiques for both men and women,” wrote one of the report’s authors, Kenneth Matos.
Here are more findings from “The New Male Mystique”
• Spending more time at work significantly increases the potential for work-family conflict. Among men who work 50 or more hours per week, 60 percent say they experience some or a lot of conflict. Compare this to men who work 40 to 49 hours a week, then just 39 percent experience conflict. The amount of time men spend working is more important in predicting their work-family conflict than the time men spend on child care, chores, and leisure.
• Men who work in demanding jobs are more likely to experience more work-family conflict (61%) than men whose jobs are moderately demanding (44%)
• Fathers in dual-earner couples are more likely to experience conflict as well. Interestingly, these fathers work three hours more per week than men their ages without children.
• Many fathers would prefer to work less, but they work long hours to earn money for their families.
Are you or is your spouse experiencing more work-life conflict? Are workplaces more accommodating to a mother’s need for flexibility than a father’s?