American work policies are making it harder for young fathers to "have it all."
Young men today grew up planning to "have it all."
The fulfilling job...
Millennials have been found to care more about having a job that both pays the bills and has an impact.
...the satisfying, equal partnership...
Millennials have the most feminist generation of men yet. They are a lot more equal in their beliefs about family and gender roles and want to be a true equal in every aspect of their relationships.
...and the ability to be a present father.
Part of their more egalitarian beliefs stems in the desire to be active participants in raising their children.
But now that they're working fathers, they're finding it a lot harder to do than they thought.
A recent study published in the American Sociological Review found that work policies are behind the change in millennial men's attitudes about family and gender roles once they have children. Despite having the best intentions, they struggled to maintain the equal partnership when they had to balance career, parenting, and love.
It turns out that a dose of the real world made them change what they expected from their relationships almost entirely.
The Families and Work Institute found that before they have children, only 35% of millennial men believed women should stay at home as caregivers while men should "bring home the bacon." Once they have kids, though, that number jumps to 53%.
It's not that working and having children suddenly makes men more sexist. Rather it's that millennials find that the workplace doesn't offer the flexibility that they need to reach their goals of having an equal partnership. So they make do with what they have and find that going the traditional route works better.
Why? Experts found that family-friendly work policies still skewed heavily toward women.
Young men might be more feminist, but their work policies are lagging a bit behind. While we often hear about maternity leave policies, paternity leave is far from the norm (about 10-15% of employers offer it paid). This is particularly depressing when we consider the United States often seems to rank last in global paid parental leave rankings. Even President Barack Obama has said we need to stop treating family leave as an issue only women care about in his 2015 State of the Union address.
And even when these policies are available to men, they are often are discouraged from using them.
Netflix's recent announcement to offer up to a year's parental leave (for men and women) is a great example of the kind of family-friendly policies we need across the board. But it isn't enough just to have a good policy on paper.
Men have reported facing stigma in the workplace when they did take the family-friendly options available to them. Mets player Daniel Murphy was infamously criticized for taking a three-day paternity leave. This makes it clear we need an attitude shift that doesn't judge men for doing what they believe is best for their families.
The fix is simple: We need policies — and attitudes — that empower fathers to be the men they want to be.
It isn't just great for the fathers' participation in child care and child development. It has economic benefits for family members as well. It sounds like everybody wins. And who wouldn't want that?