When women first entered the workplace, there was an increase in conflict between men and women as they had to adjust to new realities, and that contributed to a higher divorce rate,” she says. “But today, there has been an extensive adjustment and men have quadrupled their time devoted to child care and tripled their time in housework."
Here are some other interesting findings that Coontz covers in her book, which may help women and men make decisions about balancing work and family.
1. Women need challenging work. Studies show that when both partners have access to challenging work, they have better relationships, better sex, they’re less likely to be depressed, and are more productive, Coontz says. But if work hours get too crazy, the rewards tend to reverse themselves. The key is finding a challenging job where you have some control over your work hours or some flexibility.
2. Examine the work hours of both partners. One of the biggest reasons women leave the workforce is because their husbands work long hours, not because they want to stay home with the kids.
“Couples need to think about whether it’s a good idea for a wife to quit her job so a husband can work 80 hours a week, or if there are other options,” Coontz says. Studies show that women often quit their jobs after they tried to adjust their own hours or their husband’s hours but were unsuccessful.
“Couples need to negotiate and do what’s best for everyone,” Coontz says. The answer may not add up to the highest income but it increases the odds of a happier marriage.
3. The downside of leaving the workforce. If a woman quits but would rather keep working, she has an increased risk of being depressed. Also, when women leave their job or cut back for an extended period of time, they fall behind and never catch up, a fact that many women don’t recognize, Coontz adds. The wage gap is more a function of parenthood than gender, widening when women become moms.
4. Working moms are good for dads and kids. When moms work full time, fathers tend to have more parental knowledge of their kids, meaning that they are more involved parents. Studies show that boys raised by hands-on fathers are more empathetic, and girls raised by hands-on fathers have higher aspirations and achievement goals.
5. Don’t feel guilty. When asked what they wanted more for their working parents, children didn’t say more time, they said less guilt and less stress. When they wanted more time, they wanted it from dad, not mom.
6. Stop being kid-centric. Today’s kid-focused parenting may not be ideal after all. Women who work often feel they’re not spending enough time with their kids so spend every non-working moment with them.