The changing challenges of working mothers
Writer of the "Work and Family" column in the Wall Street Journal Sue Schellenberger, outlines changes that have taken place in the job market since the early 1990s and have affected parents, and especially working mothers of employers have become more family-friendly, but home-to-work balance solutions have not permeated To the overall market
Nearly 30 years ago, others may have seemed to have everything - a blossoming career I loved and two young children. But I still found myself awake at night for fear that I wasn't enough, neither at work nor at home.
The cost of arranging for children was five digits, and I was unable to maintain a normal working hours. That's why I left two press jobs that I liked in quick succession. I was an office head and then a part-time correspondent. Then I was nothing.
I created the "Work and Family" column of the Wall Street Journal shortly afterwards, hoping I could uncover the issues of working mothers and find solutions. More than 1,000 columns later, some of the problems were alleviated, but others still exist, and new obstacles have emerged.
When I started writing the column in 1991, the proportion of married women who were hired and worked outside the home was 71%, compared to 42% in the late 1960s. Many of them encountered a sealed wall. Executives trained in Ronald Reagan's presidency, almost all of them men, have not shown much patience for the tensions of motherhood. Some women feared they would be punished for work because of concern for the children, so much so that they hid family photos in the office. Any suggestion that working fathers might want a maternity leave brought a wild laugh.
"The new generation changed everything"
Beth Micens Long, a saleswoman at an electrical company that I dedicated to her in 1996, has worked hard and hard to win the esteem of her male colleagues. She wore the square dark suits with the skirts and heels, which were the fashion order of working women at the time, even when the men appeared in turtlenecks.
Her managers didn't want to hear about her problems at home. "I could never say I wanted to see my son play in first grade. I should have said, 'I'm sorry, I have another appointment,'" said Long, a resident of Orlando Park, Illinois, in a recent interview. When compulsory work meetings were held during school holidays, such as the Friday after Thanksgiving, "I just kept my mouth shut," she says. "I worked hard just to get an assessment."
The fear of clashes made her do what many baby boomers did: leaving the company to start her own business. Working with her husband, a former executive at an electrical company, she made more money as an entrepreneur and gained control of her workload and time, and arranged appointments to suit family needs.
Now 59, Long is pleased with the decisions she has made. Her three children, aged 27,25 and 21, are making corps. For her, the acceptance that working mothers receive today is great. "The young women nowadays say that. They say, 'Hey, this is my kid's show at school and I have to be in it.' The new generation has changed everything."
Millennial mothers are expected to be more open about their needs and receive a respectful response, especially in the industries that employ many women. They no longer feel obligated to dress like men (thank God). Colorful and fashionable attire replaced the square suits.
Brenna Fitzgerald, 32, a mother of two, four and a half and 22 months old, sought after her first maternity leave to work from home one day a week, and received immediate approval from her boss at the advertising company where she worked. She was promoted to vice president when she was eight months pregnant, and senior vice president after the second maternity leave.
Like many millennials, Fitzgerald lives closer to her parents, and has a better support network than mothers of previous generations. Her parents help when she has long working days. Her 38-year-old partner, co-founder and managing partner at a real estate investment firm, is also a full-time partner in child care. He takes them to the dormitory most mornings. After work, Fitzgerald gathers them and baths them when he cooks dinner for the family.
Millennial boys and girls share their homework more evenly. Men play an equal or greater share of dishwashing among 44% of couples, and washing in 31% of couples, roughly twice the rates of the early 1990s, according to a 2018 study. This facilitates the second shift of housework worn by baby boomers from the baby boom (born 1946-1964).
The tight labor market, which lacks employees, encourages expanding benefits for new mothers, such as nursing consulting services. About 70% of employers allow employees to work from home at least part of the time, according to the Human Resources Management Association.
More employers are seeing financial benefits in balancing the playground for working mothers. More studies, including a new study by the ranking company and research firm S&P Global, link women's presence at the top of management to better financial results.
More employers are also offering previously unthinkable benefits - paid leave for a father. Andrew Grink took three weeks' vacation home with his wife Madeline after the birth of their daughter Hannah, and another nine weeks after his wife returned to work. "It had a lasting impact on my parenting skills," says Grink, a communications manager at Discovery. It also helped him and his wife build trust and confidence in each other.
Few enjoy the solutions
Work and family solutions are not solutions if they do not reach a larger proportion of working parents. Access to paid family vacations is widening, but only 16% of U.S. private sector employees enjoy it.
"There's still a lot of work to be done in this area," says Cheryl Sandberg, Facebook operations manager and bestselling author Lean In from 2013, which praises women who are looking for challenges and taking more risks at work. "We still have to make sure that the work fits the parents, and that should be redefined as a problem not only for women but also for men." Aside from the lack of an overpayment of paid leave policies, Sandberg cites what she sees as structural obstacles to women, such as lower minimum wage laws, rising child care costs, and the gender pay gap.
Sandberg herself admitted to a blog she posted in 2016 after the tragic death of her husband Dave Goldberg, that Lean In did not properly cover the difficulties women face - especially women who are not as senior - when they have an unsupportive spouse or no partner at all. "I didn't realize then how difficult it was to succeed at work when you were flooded with concerns at home," wrote Sandberg, who serves as chair of a family support fund that bears her and her late husband's name.
Mothers work less in U.S. states where child care costs are highest and school days are the shortest, according to a 2019 survey of 37,993 mothers. The data suggest a correlation rather than a cause-and-effect relationship, but they do provide evidence that mothers' decisions are affected The challenges of managing pre-school and post-school childcare are particularly difficult for single-parent households, whose numbers have doubled since 1970.
More subtle economic and cultural factors also play a role. The flexibility to choose when to work the hours that are required from the job is the most preferred benefit by 28 percent of U.S. employees - more than paid vacations or work from home, according to the Pew Research Institute.
The treats parents are afraid of
The 7/24 economy, available technology and the pressure to collaborate in different time zones robs parents of their time control. The tendency of work to take over every casual moment means that a few jobs are still doable within the nine to five hours, and the result is a tsunami of work.
Attempts to set boundaries for work have largely died down. US Cellular, a Chicago cellular network, has completed the "Fridays Without Email" procedure it launched a few years ago. "With the speed of innovation in our sector, it is not feasible to take one day completely disconnected from the email," explained C Yi Allison.
The long-hours work culture in certain sectors that have male hegemony is another powerful counter-force. Tech campus recruiters from tech companies offer treats like free meals, haircuts and office chiropractic to entice employees to stay working, according to a 2018 Stanford University study that encompassed 84 companies. These recruiters take pride in their employers' nocturnal kathones, which are so much fun not to sleep - an environment that working parents are more afraid of than enthusiastic about.
Parents are also more anxious for other reasons. The widening of wage gaps, labor market liquidity, and the fear of losing work for automation or artificial intelligence makes parents wonder if their children will succeed in the future, says Fabrizio Zillibotti, an economist at Yale University and author of "Love, Money and Parenting," along with Mathias Deppa of Northwestern University. Many parents are now engaged in constant and sometimes intrusive surveillance of the offspring's academic progress. They spend another 3.5 hours helping with homework over the 1970s, Dr. Tsilibotti says. Such increased pressures can stifle the spontaneous play with children and impair the quality of family time that parents fight so hard to maintain.
One lesson has emerged in the three generations that have passed since most working mothers entered the workforce: the solutions your parents had probably won't suit you. Economic forces will even surpass them almost certainly. Either the way jobs are built and their schedule will change, or a recession will come and ruin the best plans, as has happened to many young parents.
Still, it's clear that most working parents are in better shape than their parents used to be. Parents of children receive more support from their employers than previous generations. Smart employers learn to truly appreciate women in the workplace for the diversity and insights they bring, and provide support for working mothers.
Significant changes are also taking place at home, thanks to more egalitarian millennial approaches. As men play a greater role in raising children and housework, they gain insights that will make them better managers when they reach the boardrooms in the future.More in Walla! NEWS More in Walla! NEWS
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