Monday, August 07, 2006

The Children Are Our Future

When the whole NYT Yale-Women-Are-All-Ready-To-Chuck-It-And-Stay-Home story broke last fall, I quite reasonably pointed to some posts that asked where the men were in this story. But I let you all down: I didn't follow up.

So kudos to Business Week's Working Parents blog for thrusting this in front of me again. The BW post follows up with more details about what the graduation classes of 2006 at Yale and Princeton expect in terms of work-life challenge. Probing those links, I realized that people actually have asked the college guys -- and not just the future moms -- what they expect. And the answers are kind of interesting.

For starters, a poll done at Yale last fall, in the wake of the NYT story, assessed the reaction of men. Now, there was certainly some traditionalist chest-thumping among some of the Yale grads-to-be: 34 percent expected their wives to stay home. But it looks like there is a significant minority of Yale guys who are on the fast track to 21st century fatherhood. A majority of the guys said that family would be the highest priority or a slightly higher priority than work (with another 32 percent looking for equal balance between work and family).

Fifty-eight percent of guy said it didn't matter who makes more money in a marriage, and 6 percent of Yale guys -- the top of the college heap -- say they'll stay home while mom works. Six percent may sound like a drop in the bucket, but for that many childless 22-year-olds at the outset of their lives to acknowledge the desire to do the AHD thing is absolutely amazing.

Princeton made a similar effort, polling its graduates for a story in the alumni mag this summer. Again, while there's a strong I'll-Grow-Up-To-Rule-The-Universe vibe, there's also a strong awareness that combining work and family is, you know, tough. Sixty-seven percent of the men say they'd temporarily interrupt their careers for kids, 33 percent expect work-family conflict. Thirteen percent of the guys say they'll work part-time once they have kids, and one brave gentlemen sees himself as a homemaker in ten years. All of those numbers are much lower than the numbers for Princeton women, but they reflect a growing recognition among guys (and, one would assume, high-earning-potential guys) that work-family will hit them, too.

It would be easy for wags to claim that all these surveys -- if you can consider them valid at all -- show there's a huge gap between men and women. But I think if you could consider the historical perspective, you'd see how quickly men's concerns are growing. Yale men picking family over work by a three-to-one margin? That's got to be progress.

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