Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: Want to keep your man happy? Stop folding his laundry. A new study carried out for the charity Working Families has found that men who share in the housework and the childcare and have wives who spend as much time at the office as they do are happier than men with more "traditional" family roles.
Today's dads want more "family time" -- a whopping 82 percent of them, in fact. Men with wives who also work full-time reported being happier than those whose wives who worked part-time. And dads who did more of the housework were less stressed than those who did less of it.
"The way we 'do' family has changed, not only because mothers are more likely to go out to work but also because today, both mothers and fathers want close relationships with children as they are growing up," Dr. Caroline Gatrell of the Lancaster University management school, the lead researcher in the two-year project, told The Guardian.
The researchers found that social attitudes toward childrearing are changing profoundly. Gone are the days when dads thought of raising kids as "women's work," but employers have been slow to accept the changing roles. Women still take a huge hit to their careers when they have kids, and dads rarely get much flexibility in the workplace to deal with family needs.
In fact, the wild card in families being able to create more of the "work-life" balance that makes both parents happy is employers, said researchers. So long as bosses expect dads to stay at the office until late in the night and be available 24/7, it will be hard for moms to have equally demanding jobs without taking on the entire "second shift" of parenting.
"This is creating a massive problem for both men and women," said Gatrell. "Women are having their careers blocked by employers who assume that, once children come along, their commitment to the workplace will be severely compromised. But the same myth is also disadvantaging men who find themselves being their child's main or only carer, because employers aren't offering them work-life balance choices. It is time workplace attitudes changed to recognize the massive changes that have taken place in family practices in the 21st century."
Many moms I know work fewer hours or have mommy-track jobs simply because someone needs to be available to get the kids to and from school and make the dinner. The dads I know today are far more involved in their kids' lives than the dads I knew when I was a kid, but few of their employers seem to offer them parental leave, work-from-home options or much flexibility to deal with any home-life issues.