The results of a new study from Lancaster University will make working mothers very happy: according to the researchers, fathers who spend more time with their children, have working partners with equally long hours, and do more of the housework are actually happier. According to the Guardian, researchers who spoke to more than 1,100 working fathers to find out how they combine work and family life discovered that “the desire for more ‘family time’ is widespread, with 82% of full-time working men saying they would like this.”
While this seems like a fairly predictable finding, the implications are quite radical. According to the researchers, fewer fathers than mothers believe that it’s the mother’s job to look after children. This, of course, isn’t necessarily something that men act out – partially because of the limitations imposed by employers.
The lead researcher, Dr. Caroline Gatrell, summed up the issue succinctly:
“Women are having their careers blocked by employers who assume that, once children come along, their commitment to the workplace will be severely compromised. But the same myth is also disadvantaging men who find themselves being their child’s main or only career, because employers aren’t offering them work-life balance choices. It is time workplace attitudes changed to recognise the massive changes that have taken place in family practices in the 21st century.”
So how do we make this happen? It makes sense that men would want to spend more time with their children (and that less time in the office equals less stress, even if it means more time spent on household chores), and certainly more balance in the domestic sphere would make it easier for working mothers to juggle the demands of career and family. The answer seems to be, as usual, to provide better daycare and maternity/paternity leave, and to allow both men and women to work more flexibly. Whether employers (and the government) will get on board is another question.
Photo from Flickr.