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More Men Struggling with Juggling Act than Women

More men today feel work-family conflicts than women, according to the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit advocacy organization based in New York City. Results from a 2008 national survey of 1,298 men found that 60 percent of men in dual-income families reported work-family conflicts compared to 47 percent of women. Attempting to delve deeper into the cause of work-family stress in men, the researchers crunched the data further, and just released those results in a new report.

The causes of the stress--longer work hours, blurred work-home boundaries, more involvement in childcare---are not surprising, but the fact that so many more men are experiencing work-family conflicts is new. Among the findings:

  • A steep increase in the number of fathers reporting conflicts, especially among those with working wives. In 2008, 49% of employed fathers reported experiencing work family conflict, compared to only 34% in 1977. For fathers in dual income households, those who reported work-family conflict jumped to 60%.
  • Long hours are a huge factor. Men who work long hours--50 hours or more a week--are at highest risk of work-family conflict, as are those whose wives also work.
  • Blurred work-family boundaries--a feeling that you always have be "on"--aggravate stress. In 2008, 41% of men said they were contacted at least once a week by someone from their workplace outside of normal working hours, compared to 32% in 2002. Of those who were contacted, 47% experience high levels of work-family conflict, compared to only 18% of those who are never contacted outside of work hours.
The researchers say the underlying source of conflict for men is a "new male mystique," a conflict between traditional roles and changing values. Though more and more women contribute financially and often equally to their families, men still feel the traditional pressure to be the primary financial provider. Yet, the "ideal" man is also an involved husband and father.
Men today spend more time with their children and contributing to their homes than men in the past. That means they need the same juggling skills as their "super women" counterparts. This, say the authors, put men at risk of the kind of work-family conflict that women have been experiencing for decades. Still, some men experience very little work-family conflict. I'll report on that phenomenon in my next post.
Are you experiencing the male mystique, a push and pull of traditional roles and new values?
Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites. Follow her on twitter. Photo courtesy of Flickr user erin.kkr