Article by Tami Forman for Forbes.
It's way past time we started talking about work/life balance for men, too.
There’s a lot of talk about the unhealthy messages many girls and women receive about gender stereotypes and how it can hold us back. Much less attention is focused on the unhealthy messages boys and men receive — to work at all costs, to grind it out no matter what, to devote time to family only if it fits around a corporate schedule. Men are less likely than women to ask for, never mind demand, flexibility. The result as been that some dads report being even more stressed out than moms — they hold themselves to higher standard for involvement in home life than their fathers did, while holding themselves to the same standard in terms of work.
There’s reason to believe that men suffer the health consequences of overwork. While the medical researchers have only begun to scratch the surface of differences in health between men and women there’s reason to believe that some of the conditions from which men suffer disproportionately are due to work stress. Theories range but the combination of working more hours and feeling more responsible for breadwinning can create an unhealthy level of anxiety and stress for some men.
A better balance for men would mean more balance for women. In heterosexual relationships it is common for women to take on more housework -- even when they work full-time. The result is that women often either cut back on their paid working hours or find themselves overwhelmed. If men were able to better balance their work schedules they’d have more time to help out at home, which would create a better balance for their wives and a stronger, more balanced marriage.
Children benefit from having an involved dad. Much media attention is focused on the effect moms have on their children, leaving many to assume that a dad’s role is more marginal. But that’s not true. There’s some research suggesting that dad’s involvement is crucial to children’s development. Also, I can tell you, as a mom, my kids miss my husband when he isn’t home for dinner just as much as they miss me. From their pint-sized vantage point they want all the people they love around them all the time. Should you care about this if you don’t yet have children? While it may not seem as urgent, the habits established before kids may be hard to break after kids.
We all tend to overemphasize work/life balance for women — to the extent that it likely hurts their ambition and results in fewer women in leadership roles. But change won’t happen if we ignore men’s relationship to work and life. I think women and men can open up a conversation that assumes everyone deserves to find a balance that fits. And that if both men and women pursued balanced lives it would create more opportunities for women to participate fully in all aspects of society and the whole question of whether someone can be both ambitious and a parent would be seen for what it is — a silly and outdated notion. When men and women are both able to build rich, whole lives we will all benefit.
Pauze offer workshops on how to create that work life balance email@example.com
Learn more about the work Tami Forman does at Path Forward.