Other older marrieds sometimes ask me the secret to having a husband who does easily half, arguably more, of the childrearing and cleaning/cooking in our house. The secret is I married someone who is 33 years old. Good news for people like me: Millennial dudes are the most engaged, involved fathers in history. Bad news: Even they are having trouble knocking this equality thing out of the park.
Writing at the New York Times, Claire Cain Miller reports on the bummer reality that millennial fathers are giving it the old college try on the raising the kids and doing the dishes front, but finding themselves screwed when it comes to workplace policies that haven’t kept pace. Miller writes:
“The majority of young men and women say they would ideally like to equally share earning and caregiving with their spouse,” said Sarah Thébaud, a sociologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But it’s pretty clear that we don’t have the kinds of policies and flexible work options that really facilitate egalitarian relationships.”
Work-family policies strongly affected women’s choices, but not men’s. Ms. Thébaud said that occurred because women disproportionately benefit from the policies since they are expected to be caregivers, while men are stigmatized for using them.
The word “benefit” here is dubious. It’s more complicated than this, because when women take advantage of these so-called favorable conditions designed precisely for them, yes, they are, in effect benefiting. But it’s not as if exercising the option doesn’t come with a penalty, it just kicks in before they ever get pregnant—in the form of being regarded as less reliable from the start, and therefore missing leadership roles or promotions due to the expectation they will start a family—and then they’re hit again afterward, when they find it difficult to re-enter the workforce after going part time. Meanwhile, men are viewed as more reliable after a family, not less.
Thébaud’s work comes from a study she co-authored on workplace policies and their effect on millennial relationships, the first such large study of its kind. But Miller cites other research that found the same thing again and again: People increasingly want and expect equal relationships, only to find that the world doesn’t seem to want to yield, in part because the nature of work has become never-ending, with everyone on the digital leash 24/7, and in part because of simply what happens when children come into the picture. One Families and Work Institute study Miller cites found that 35 percent of childlessmillennial men thought men and women should take on traditional roles, i.e., him the breadwinner, her the caregiver, while 53 percent of those with kids thought traditional was the best arrangement.
“They say, ‘I didn’t realize how much of a ding it would be on my career,’” said Laura Sherbin, the center’s director of research. “It’s what women have been saying for years and years.”
The research shows that when something has to give in the work-life juggle, men and women respond differently. Women are more likely to use benefits like paid leave or flexible schedules, and in the absence of those policies, they cut back on work. Men work more.
But again, let’s note that both men and women who want equal partnerships are being penalized in some way or another for having families—women are penalized for being women, i.e., caregivers, while men are being penalized for not acting like men, i.e., breadwinners. Men will at least be rewarded through work after breeding—research shows men on average score a 6% raise per child, whereas a woman’s salary will decrease by 4 percent per child.
Other research Miller details that surveyed unmarried millennials about future work/family balance found that respondents overwhelmingly chose egalitarian arrangements (95 percent of college-educated women vs. 75 percent of college-educated men; 82 percent of women without college vs. 68 percent of men) when work policies supported them. But when they didn’t support them, things looked a little different.
Full story: Jezebel »