Would you marry your husband if you were making the decision today? Well, would you?
That's one of the questions in an attitude survey by Yankelovich, Skelly & White and Woman's Day magazine that shows that women are in an extended season of discontent. The survey results, released yesterday, show that a great many women find their lives very tough -- tougher, in fact, than they used to be -- but that they are adamant about keeping the gains they have made in the past 20 years. It also shows that a huge majority of women have become hard-nosed realists about marriage: The crack in the great American deal has become a canyon. "Only 28 percent believe that in the ideal marriage the husband supports the wife while she takes care of the children. An overwhelming 92 percent believe that women who see marriage as a means to financial security make a big mistake," according to the survey results.
Further, 85 percent of the respondents believe that women need to earn as much as men, and an overwhelming majority said that employers ought to share responsibility for providing job options such as flexible hours, part-time work and day care that ease the demands on working mothers.
Women also appear to have become hard-nosed realists about what has happened to them in the work force: 69 percent said they have gained more than they have lost in jobs and careers during the past 20 years, but nearly three-quarters of them said that being female had limited their potential job choices "very much" or "somewhat," and 80 percent said men underestimate women's abilities in the work place.
The attitude survey questions were published in the Oct. 15, 1985, issue of Woman's Day. Yankelovich, Skelly and White received 56,500 returns by Nov. 18, the cutoff date. Sampling was done to reflect the magazine's audience, which it says is a "mainstream" group of American women.
If that is the case, the mainstream is very dissatisfied.
Nearly half of the women said they would not choose the same kind of work again, although two-thirds would work if they did not have to, and most planned to work at some point. The women showed a strong attachment to working outside the home, but not to their jobs: 68 percent want more money, 64 percent want more potential for advancement and 51 percent want more self-fulfillment.
For 70 percent of the women, in the ideal marriage, the husband shares responsibility for earning money and taking care of the home and children. The reality, however, appears to be strikingly different: Three-quarters of the women said that men expect them to do too much of the child caring and the housework. They're not all that happy in their sexual relationships, either: 42 percent said men expect too much sex and 8 percent said they expect too little, adding up to half being dissatisfied.
More than 80 percent of the women agreed or strongly agreed with the belief that men have gained more than women in the past 20 years because many wives help support their families but most husbands have not taken on comparable responsibilities in the home. Well over 80 percent believed that men should take day-to-day responsibility for raising children, but 46 percent said most men are not willing to help with that, and 41 percent said their husbands are doing less than their share around the house.
Woman's Day Editor-in-Chief Ellen Levine said the magazine did the survey in an attempt to sort out whether women were, indeed, feeling that the women's movement "really didn't turn out the way they wanted it to. They're willing to admit it's complicated out there, that there are in fact consequences and some are not entirely positive, but no way do they want to go back to the way it was. To me, the biggest change in 20 years is [in] young women . . . . Working for a paycheck is now part of their lives."
Which may explain the willingness of the women surveyed to discuss the various problems they run into with children, including the feeling expressed by 40 percent of them that children and family life lost more than they gained during the past two decades. "I would have to assume that if women are willing to admit that children are the big losers," says Levine, "that women are feeling guilty about it, which is what we see in the survey, and they will do something about it."
Women want more help from their employers and their husbands. If they got it at home, at least, the answer to the very first question about whether women would marry their husbands again might be different.
Half said they would not.