Breaking news: Men and women are still stressed about having it all.
This, despite my admonishment that NO ONE can have it all without being a jerk, or simple-minded, or a simple-minded jerk. (Come on, people. Pay attention!)
So then why are we still talking about having it all? Because a survey published last week by Citi and Linked In finds that there has been a bit of movement in regard to what “it all” means. Men and women are defining the “it” differently which is what happens when you use a pronoun without an antecedent.
According to the survey, 79% of men say that having it all includes a “strong, healthy marriage,” compared to 66% of women. The numbers change a bit if you talk about having a “strong, loving relationship” where marriage isn’t necessary 25% of women say this is part of “it all,” compared to only 14% of men.
Whoa, there: men value marriage more than women, who would prefer love without the strings of matrimony? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?
Perhaps, as Lindy West postulates on Jezebel, this is because traditionally a wife “is a kind of sexy butler that you also love.” So men don’t envision marriage as bringing with it more work, or doing anything to detract from their career. If anything, a butler (sexy or otherwise) makes it easier for one to focus their attention on their career, since you wouldn’t have to worry about those pesky domestic duties, like cooking, cleaning, keeping a social calendar, etc.
Of course, this deal sucks for the wife, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find fewer women wanting marriage, and it also explains the stats on kids— 86% of men include the little ones as part of “it all,” while only 73% of women feel the same. This probably isn’t because men like children more than women, but because including them in their work/life equation doesn’t count for as much.
In Wednesday’s The Washington Post, Brigid Schulte reports on a series of studies done by Boston College’s Center for Work & Family that confirms this suspicion. On the surface, all looks rosy. The 1,000 fathers Boston College surveyed, “most of them white-collar professionals with big jobs at Fortune 500 companies,” rank “being physically and emotionally present for their children” as the number one quality of being a good father, with “their role as breadwinner” coming in at number 4 out of 6 choices. And a whopping 86% say that being a good father is their primary priority in life!
And yet, most of these guys aren’t walking the talk. Schutte writes, “Fathers described their ideal: About two-thirds of the fathers surveyed said that the best arrangement would be to share equally in work, household chores and caring for children. Then confessed their reality: that same two-thirds said that their spouses did more work at home and with the children than they did.”
The stats on maternity/paternity leave present the most bold example of this inequality. Working women, on average, take between 2 and 6 months off, while 96% of men take less than 2 weeks off, and 16% take no leave at all. Again, the argument is clear: America needs a better paternity leave policy! But this is a losing battle in our country, where we’re still fighting even for good maternity leave laws. As Lisa Belkin writes on The Huffington Post, “The US has the dubious distinction of joining Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea as the only countries in the world that do not require paid leave for new mothers.” Oy.
It ain’t easy being a mom or a dad in this country, which is why more people than ever are opting to have only one child. But I’d be an idiot if I said that it was easier being a dad. It’s not. In The Washington Post piece, Brad Harrington, the director of Boston College’s Center for Work & Family, describes how research shows that working mothers are seen as less committed, promotable, and competent. The case is just the opposite for professional dads, who are seen in a better light. Fatherhood: you get points just for showing up.
So guys, here’s an idea: how about you stop worrying so much about having it all and start actually helping out more around the house, being present more for your kids, and working too. As I’ve written before, I do think that things are getting better in regards to gender equality, and the fact that dads are even talking about parenthood as something that’s important to them demonstrates that our values are shifting. It’s just not happening fast enough, and we need to see change, not just hear about it.
It’s hard work, guys, as our wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters already know.