Changing Structures for a Changing Reality

By Jennifer P. Patello*

Can it really be that men are experiencing more work-life balance troubles than women? Apparently, as reported in the Families and Work Institute’s National Study of the Changing Workforce, The New Male Mystique.

According to the report, fathers today embody a modern day renaissance man. Fathers are both harder working breadwinners and are more active in family life as husbands, fathers, and sons than their non-fathered counterparts. This makes sense. I think many can agree that the fathers of today are more accessible, more relatable, more tuned in to their children than, say, the typical aloof father of the 1950’s and 1960’s. And about time too! Father’s increased active participation in family life makes for stronger family bonds and better male role-models. The next generation of dads will fashion themselves in the image of a dual financial-provider/family-man role.

But according to Ellen Galinsky, the report’s author, such accomplishment comes at a price: the traditional male role of being breadwinner is expanding to include household responsibilities. The report’s findings suggest that men are still the primary financial providers for their families, despite the increasingly egalitarian society. It should come as no surprise, then, that in 2008, 60% of men in dual-earning couples with children under 18 reported work-family conflict, as compared to 47% of their female counterparts. The challenge to the male work-life balance is ugliest in the case of those over-zealous workaholics slaving away for 50+ hours a week. NPR points out that this pressure is created by a combination of flat earnings, long hours, increasing job demands, and declining job security among other trends. In Psychology Today, Dr. Susan Newman, social psychologist and author, suggests that the added stress may be due more simply to society’s greater expectations of fathers than in the past.

According to the study, solutions should be aimed at altering social structures to coincide with changing societal realities of the traditional male and female roles. Some examples may include permitting more flexible schedules, coworker and supervisor support, and altering workplace culture, such as the long-standing conception that job dedication can only be demonstrated by a willingness to miss your daughter’s middle school, high school, and college graduation without hesitation.

*Jennifer P. Patello is a Research and Programs Intern at the National Council for Research on Women. She is currently pursuing an MS in Global Affairs from New York University. Jennifer has interned with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP).

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