July 17th, 2007
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Pew Research Center revealed that the number of working moms who find part-time employment ideal — as opposed to full-time employment, or sitting out the employment merry-go-round altogether –has jumped to 60 percent in the past decade. (It was 48 percent in 1997.) You can read more of the stats here.
On the one hand, is this really news? I mean, doesn’t anyone with multiple responsibilities and to-do lists coming out of their ears want to work less? We’re not our first-wave feminist mothers and grandmothers with something to prove: We now know we can take office work or leave it (that is, if we can afford it, which most of us unfortunately can’t).
On the other hand, only 12 percent of the working dads Pew surveyed thought that part-time work was ideal for them. Sure, most single- or dual-parent families can’t live off a part-time salary (or two). But why are today’s dads so much more squeamish than their female counterparts about sitting out a couple days of office work? Is it that they don’t want to get “stuck” at home changing diapers and folding laundry? Are their identities — even in this sensitive-DIY-male day and age — so wrapped up in being the manly breadwinner? Or is it just that they (wisely) can’t get past the hits in pay, benefits, and even career advancement that often come with part-time work? (And since women can get past all this more often than their male counterparts, are we just a bunch of suckers? Or are we simply more disposed to putting quality of life first?)
Hopefully studies like this will continue to drive home the need for more fair ‘n flexible work options for parents and non-parents alike. And for parents, my hope is that more and more couples will continue to take that long, hard look at the division of household/financial labor when weighing who should work and who should stay home (if that’s even a financial option). And hopefully the next time someone does a big fancypants study like this, they’ll bother to ask the non-parents what they think, too. I, for one, would love to see the number of non-parents who prefer part-time work. I have a sneaking suspicion they’d be similar across the gender lines.