Experts are now saying working fathers are experiencing the most pressure in families, even families in which both spouses work. I’m not here to suggest wives or husbands are getting more of the brunt of lifestyle stresses. However, I think it’s helpful to discuss what kinds of pressures are most common and how they can affect marriages.
This is the final discussion of the research coming out of Time Magazine’s August issue. It shares a report by the Families and Work Institute, which surveyed 1,298 men. The report concluded that long hours at work, increasing job demands, and increasing parenting expectations are combining to make working fathers feel enormous pressure. The institute had previously found 60 percent of fathers said they had a hard time managing work and family responsibilities, while only 47 percent of working mothers said the same.
- Men are still expected to be the breadwinners (although more women are the breadwinners as explained in this article).
- Men are expected to be very involved parents. Many feel pressure not only to attend all their kids’ sports activities but to also coach and help them practice.
- Today’s fathers don’t have many role models for today’s cultural expectations of domestic help. Their own fathers rarely changed diapers, cooked or cleaned, and they left the parenting to their wives. Many of them are surprised at how much they are expected to do at home after putting in long hours.
“What these new findings mean is that the widespread belief that working mothers have it the worst—a belief that engenders an enormous amount of conflict between the spouses—is simply not the open-and-shut case it once was,” says the Time article.
Men who are experiencing overwhelming stresses should discuss their feelings with their wives in a way that is not accusatory. At some point decisions about whether to continue working the long hours, or whether to stop coaching baseball, may need to be made. Perhaps lawn work is farmed out, or other family members can step in to help.
I know some families in which the woman works and handles the vast majority of child care, all of the cooking and the majority of the chores. So, I don’t believe all fathers or husbands are quite as conflicted, but it’s a cultural change that is occurring. And many wives would benefit their marriage to understand the stresses that each of them is facing.
When is the last time you had a vacation? Americans aren’t great about using their vacation time to refresh and renew. Europeans, on the other hand, believe going “on holiday” is an important part of their culture and quality of life. Taking a real break with your spouse can help both of you de-stress and begin to communicate about more than the daily agenda.
Women and men in each generation who try to stretch themselves too far eventually realize they must prioritize. Too much stress on either or both partners can be unhealthy to the individual and even more unhealthy for the marriage. Spouses who feel they are on the same team and support one another as much as possible fare much better.
What’s your solution to this age-old issue?
Reclaim Relaxation for Better Relationship
How is Work Load Being Distributed Between Husbands and Wives?
Who’s Marrying for Money–about the increasing number of breadwinner wives
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