Men Also Want It All

The Washington Post has an interesting look at the gap between what we say we want and what our lives look like when it comes to working and childcare. In that gap, otherwise known as reality, are things like MONEY, societal expectation, and circumstance.

In a poll conducted by the Times and CBS in 2013, men and women who have kids were asked what they’d do in terms of work and childcare if money was no object:

Among fathers, 16 percent say they’d ideally stay at home, if money were no object. Just 7 percent of them are actually abstaining from the labor force. Now look at mothers: 22 percent say they would ideally like to stay at home and not work, while 30 percent actually do so.

In other words more dads say they want to stay at home than actually do, and fewer moms say they want to stay at home than actually do. Both genders also have much stronger stated preferences for working part time than their real-life work arrangements suggest, with nearly a third of fathers and half of mothers saying their ideal work status would be part time.

I think about stay at home dads (“SAHDS” y’all) a lot, partly because I have a half-SAHD who continually gets worshipped by strangers for doing the thing I’m expected to do (though I say “worship,” he says they appreciate his ‘willingness to be emasculated’ so um, gender: IT’S COMPLICATED). And then partly because of things like the Moms of Summer Babies Facebook group I’m in, and Baby & Me Yoga, which is carefully-named to their credit, but we do kegels and people breastfeed and I think everyone would be (justifiably!) a little uncomfortable if Dustin showed up in man tights one day.

I can’t speak for Dustin — though lord knows I try! — but I think we both like the idea of taking care of the kid ourselves but also both wish we had more time for work. And were/are taken aback by the challenge and tedium of childcare (is it “childcare” if it’s your child?).

As the poll reports, part-time work is ideal for most people in theory, which makes sense. I mean work SUCKS but also doing work keeps you sane and alive and busy. Most people want some work, right? Maybe not. In practice, obviously, part-time work is tough and tougher to find.

Let’s start with the barriers to taking part-time work: Some jobs are just not easy to divvy into part-time hours, either because of the nature of the work or the costs to the employer associated with hiring and managing more staff. Part-time jobs also tend to pay less on an hourly basis than their full-time equivalents and may not be remunerative enough to justify paying for child care. So, many parents who would ideally like to work part time instead choose full-time jobs that pay a little better. Or — more often for mothers than for fathers — they stay out of the workforce altogether, which means they can provide child care themselves.

Obviously everyone getting to do what they want is ideal, even if they find out once they do said things that they are much harder than they thought and whoops, never mind, BRING ME BACK MY CUBICLE. Until then, as the Washington Post points out, maybe we should focus more attention on men Having It All.

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