Breaking the mold

Men at work: Study finds for first time young men are putting family ambitions ahead of career.

May 11, 2000

THE AMERICAN family table is set for change. For the first time, a national study reports, younger men rank family time ahead of work.

About 80 percent of male respondents ages 20 to 39 said in the survey by the Radcliffe Public Policy Center that family time is more important than having a challenging or high-paying job. Experts call this a major shift in thinking.

Sure it is. Two generations ago, men were the breadwinners, even holding down more than one job to make ends meet. Their wives often stayed home, as did their mothers.

Contrast that with the men in the younger age group, three quarters of whom grew up with mothers working outside the home.

Some will say this shift in attitude reflects younger men's unhappiness with their home life growing up, while others will point to this as one of the fruits of the equal rights movement. In any case, the end result for families is a better way to look at what each person can bring to the table, be it the woman at work, the man at home or something in between.

There's hope for the family dinner.

Whether government and business are also prepared to think outside the lines is critical. While men and women are shifting work schedules or trading places in an increasing number of families, most employers are still playing catch-up on salaries, flexible scheduling and other benefits.

A family that happens to be headed by a woman, for example, should live on a salary that's equal to, not three-quarters of, what her male counterpart earns. And men should feel comfortable asking for time off to care for an infant or a sick parent.

We aren't there yet. But changing attitudes among men may be the harbinger of good things to come, for both sexes and for their families, too.

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