Over the long holiday weekend, a family with young children visited. The father and two children, ages nine and 11, arrived first. The father made sure the children were entertained, ate properly; he reminded them to brush their teeth and in essence administered to their needs flawlessly. Mom arrived two days later and the dynamics changed immediately. The children went to Mom with their questions, wants, and demands. For the remainder of the weekend, Dad was instructed by Mom and Mom became the children's go-to person, the permission grantor and the denial enforcer as she probably is at home.

New research from the Families and Work Institute suggests that the increased levels of work-family conflict are greater now for men than for women. I am not convinced. Are you?

Men these days are caught between the need to support a family and wanting to do more with their children.According to a Families and Work Institute report titled"The New Male Mystique," "men are experiencing what women experienced when they first entered the workforce in record numbers-the pressure to 'do it all in order to have it all.'"

Among the Families and Work Institute findings: "The rise in work-family conflict has been especially striking among fathers in dual-earner couples. Work-family conflict among these men has increased substantially and significantly-from 35% in 1977 to 60% in 2008-while that of mothers in dual earner couples has remained relatively stable." 

Given that parents work eleven more hours a week than they did in the 1970s, I am willing to concede that some fathers may feel as stressed out as mothers, but not more so. Women still spend about the same time with their children as mothers did in the 1950s. Last year's Pew Research study, "The Demography of American Motherhood," points out that in terms of actual hours of child-care and household responsibilities, when both parents work outside the home (like my guests), women spend 28 hours per week with their children while men average 16 hours per week. The Institute hour finding for dads' time with children was slightly higher-"3 hours per workday (on average) with their children." It should be noted that most men choose what they want to do and that isn't necessarily what needs to be done with and for the children.

Is the increased stress fathers feel a function of being more present at home and with the children or is it a function of our difficult economy, more pressure on the job, and the high cost of raising children? Or, is it that our expectations for fathers are higher than they have been in the past?

Do you believe that men experience more family-work conflict and stress than women when it comes to meeting work and family obligations?


Families and Work Institute, The New Male Mystique, 2011.http://familiesandwork.org/site/research/reports/newmalemystique.pdf.

Newman, Susan. The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide

Livingston, Gretchen and Cohn, D'Vera. "The New Demography of American Motherhood," Pew Research Center, May 6, 2010 (Revised August 19, 2010). 

Copyright 2011 by Susan Newman

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