Take me home: High-earning men would take a pay cut if it meant they could spend more time with their partners, according to new findings that bust the stereotype of workaholic male breadwinners dodging familial responsibilities and scoffing at work-life balance.
The study of 4,662 European men aged 25 to 60 debunks two myths: that men thrive on overtime and that they put career above all else. Some 58 per cent of male breadwinners – those who out-earned their partners – said they wanted to work less and be at home more, regardless of whether they had children or not.
"Little is known about whether men actually want to work long hours," sociologists Shireen Kanji of the University of Leicester and Robin Samuel of the University of Bern write in the study, published in the journal Sociology. "Male breadwinners feel constrained from participating as fully as they desire in family life, even if they do not have children."
So far, the conversation around "having it all" has focused on women juggling their professional lives with childcare and domestic duties. The sociologists argue that their portrait of overworked male employees suggests we need to pay more attention to work-life balance as an issue also plaguing modern men. That goes especially for fathers who want to be involved in childcare but feel traditional pressures to put in overtime at inflexible workplaces that don't exactly celebrate paternity leave.
"The common belief that higher-earning men like to work longer to build their careers is shown to be wrong… men who earn the majority of their household's income were most likely to want to work less," read a release for the study.
European men who earned as much as their spouses also wanted to work fewer hours. The same went for single men and men who made less than their partners: fewer gruelling hours, please.
Just 15 per cent of the male breadwinners said they actually wanted to put in longer work weeks. The figures counter a Harvard Business Review report that found male executives were cool with skipping family time because they pay the bills: The mantle of "breadwinner" alleviated their guilt around missing bedtime story hour. The disheartening report again framed work-family balance as solely a women's issue.
Flippant CEOs aside, the juggle is now increasingly a co-ed reality. A 2012 study from the Pew Research Center found that 48 per cent of working dads felt they spent too little time with their kids; 50 per cent said they found it difficult to balance work and family.
"Expectations for dads' participation at home have risen steadily over three generations – but the need to make a living hasn't gone away," father Jeremy Adam Smith wrote in response to the Pew findings. "Many of today's fathers feel caught between the pincers of home and work. Though moms have struggled on both fronts for decades, the juggle is new and shocking to men."
What we need now is an employment movement that unites the sexes and fights for more flexible workplaces, as well as employers who value regenerative time outside the cubicle for mothers, fathers and childless men and women.