I love my work, but being a mother is by far the most profound and important thing I do. That said, I’m no superhero — and I shouldn’t have to be.
We are a nation of working caregivers, with one in two children living in households were all adults are working outside the home. Yet, we still treat caregiving as a private matter, one that’s primarily mom’s domain.
As a result, there is no national support system. Instead, each family is struggling on its own. Is it any wonder that work family conflict is a higher predictor of health problems than second-hand smoke? And just like with second hand smoke, we are all paying the price. According to an analysis by professors at Stanford Business School, workplace stress–such as long hours, job insecurity and lack of work-life balance–accounts for up to $190 billion/year in health care costs.
While most Americans will say that they don’t believe a woman’s place is in the home, most of us still believe that women are naturally better caregivers — and that therefore, caregiving, especially when it comes to children, should be a woman’s responsibility.
Here are a few statistics that indicate how we feel about who should be doing the caregiving:
- 67 percent of Americans believe it’s “very important” that a man be ready to support a family before getting married, while only 33 percent believe the same about women.
- 51 percent of Americans believe that children are better off if the mother stays home, but only 8 percent say children are better off if the father stays home.
- 20 percent of employers who are required to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act do not provide any paternity leave.
- When paternity leave is offered, men take one week on average, because of the financial and career penalties associated with taking more.
- A study of 25,000 Harvard Business School graduates show that men expected their career to be primary and their spouse/partner to do the majority of caregiving, and that is what happened, even though women expected to share caregiving.
- The wage gap has shrunk for childless women but stayed the same or widened somewhat for women with children, especially at lower wage levels.
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