Careers That You Can Work From Home

THE NEW MALE MYSTIQUE

A myriad of studies has shown Millennial men are eager to be deeply engaged fathers150 and, if time is any indication, they already are. Today’s fathers spend an average of 4.1 hours per workday with their children under thirteen, significantly more than their same-age counterparts in 1977 who spent an average of 2.4 hours per workday with their children.151 But fathers want more. A recent Pew Research report noted that 46 percent of fathers say they are not spending enough time with their children, compared with 23 percent of mothers.152

And when it comes to the mother of their children, men’s attitudes have changed dramatically in just the past six years. In 2009, Pew reports that 54 percent of fathers with children under age seventeen said the ideal situation for young children was to have a mother who did not work at all outside the home;153 today only 37 percent of fathers say that.

Even the future captains of industry are showing signs of a shift in perspective. Stewart Friedman, a professor of management at the Wharton School of Business, surveyed the class of 1992 and then followed up two decades later with a second survey of the class of 2012. He wrote about the results in his book Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family.

Stewart discovered a significant shift in the number of students who reported planning to have children. While 78 percent of the men of the class of 1992 wanted children, only 42 percent of the men in 2012 said they did (interestingly, the women matched their male peers in their responses regarding their desire for children: 79 percent in 1992 and 42 percent in 2012). But what was particularly interesting was that those modern men who did report wanting children were much more likely to believe two-career relationships work best “when neither partner has stereotypical or traditional ideas about men’s or women’s family roles.”154 These men also reported as being much more likely to value flexibility in work hours than those from the class of 1992.

Stewart Friedman wrote, “the young men in our study who expect to have children do not see the primary responsibility of fatherhood as bringing home the bacon. These young men expect and want to be involved dads.”155

And they don’t just want to be “helpful”; they are willing to do what it takes to ensure their children get the best care possible. In 2015, Boston College Center for Work & Family conducted a study of 1,100 Millennials.156 The respondents were college-educated professionals who worked in the financial services or insurance industry. The goal was to uncover their attitudes toward their careers. The survey asked the married or partnered young adults if they would find it acceptable to stay home if their spouse or partner made enough money for the family to live on comfortably. Here’s what was surprising: 51 percent of the men said yes, while only 44 percent of the women did.

However, that same Boston College study revealed that although men report a willingness to put family first, they also feel workplace pressure to be career focused. When asked about their own workplaces, 43 percent of the men said they believed to get ahead they were expected to work more than fifty hours per week while only 38 percent of the women agreed with this statement. When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “the ideal employee is the one who is available 24 hours a day,” nearly a third of the men responded yes while only 22 percent of the women agreed with that statement.

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Same workplaces, same professional cohort of men and women, and yet the men perceived the demands of work as being more intense. The researchers argued the male respondents internalized the pressure in ways that their female peers had not. Despite all of the rhetoric around “leaning in” for women, in all areas regarding ambition to move ahead, get promoted, and have influence, men reported higher levels of desire and drive than women. When asked about the statement “I would like to advance to a position where I can have a greater influence on policy decisions,” nearly 85 percent of the men agreed, compared to only 71 percent of the women. As women have known for years, being both a hard-driving professional and a deeply engaged parent is challenging, and this may be what underlies the reported differences in male and female ambition. One wonders if modern fathers’ desire for a deeper role in caregiving will change their desire to “get ahead.” Only time will tell.

In 2011, the Families and Work Institute (FWI) issued a report on their ongoing National Study of the Changing Workforce entitled “The New Male Mystique.”157 In it, they revealed “The U.S. workplace is no longer a ‘man’s world’ … Traditional, clear-cut gender roles are giving way to a ‘new normal’ that is both egalitarian and challenging … Our data suggests that men are experiencing significantly higher levels of work-family conflict than they did three decades ago.” In other words, the report states, 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.”

Heath Black, a product manager at reddit, can certainly relate. He never imagined he’d find himself in a traditional marital structure. When I interviewed him, he said he and his wife, Sallie, have always been full equals professionally, trading off who followed whom as their careers progressed . until their son, Jeb, was born. Now Heath is the breadwinner father and his wife is home caring for their new son. “We wanted to be sure at least one of us was there for Jeb and it just seemed to make sense for Sallie to be the one,” Heath told me. “As a new father, I have felt this deep internalized pressure to make sure there is money in the bank and food on the table. Sallie keeps me grounded by reminding me that time with our family is most important, but that’s not always easy.” Heath paused and laughed when he shared, “It’s ironic. Despite my deep passion and commitment to equality, here I am in this 1950s role.” As Stewart Friedman wrote in Baby Bust, “While 2012 men no longer identify their values with the breadwinner role, many men still identify with and worry about their ability to fulfill this role’s financial obligations. These seemingly contradictory observations that men no longer think of themselves as breadwinners but are still anxious about their ability to support their kids indicates that we are in a period of transition as men’s and women’s roles converge.”158 Stewart later wrote, “Men aren’t sure who they are or how to be.” But what they do know is that they want to be a different kind of father than their own father was. The question is, will we let them?

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