"Big Four" Highlights


Shouldering the Sacrifices

Survey shows working millennials sharing more parenting responsibilities

By Jason Godin

Parents find out fast that the birth of a child brings much more than joy to their lives. Schedules surrender the serenity of routine. Senses fray from stretches of stressful nights with little or no sleep. And should both mom and dad work outside the home, a new addition to the family can mean job-related sacrifices and deciding who will be the primary caregiver.

Historically, working women alone took on the fullest measure of family devotion after childbirth, exchanging office responsibilities for home roles temporarily or permanently. Today, however, more men are choosing to stay home. According to a recent parenthood survey released by The Hartford, working millennials – the generation of men and women born between 1981 and 1996 – share the burdens of balancing work and home more equally than in the past.

The Connecticut-based financial services group asked 1,000 U.S. residents aged 18-33 years old, self-employed or employed on a full- or part-time basis, the following four questions:

Who took more than two weeks off after having a baby – mom, dad or both?
Just a surface glance of the results to this first question suggests nothing new, with almost three times as many moms (65%) than dads (21%) saying that they were the only parent to take time off for more than a fortnight after having a baby. A deeper dig into the numbers, however, shows a slightly different picture. More dads (31%) than moms (24%) said both parents took time off. When totaling the above responses together along gender lines, 89% of moms and 52% of dads said they took extended leave from work after the birth of their child – an unprecedented majority for the latter.

Which parent had their career affected by having children – and how?
This question revealed that 75% of moms and slightly more than half (53%) of dads believed that their career experienced noticeable change after having a baby. When asked to describe the nature of the change, both women and men replied reduced work hours (22% for moms, 16% for dads) and a “slowdown” in their career (18% for moms, 12% for dads). Additionally noteworthy, when asked why mom or dad changed jobs after a baby, moms cited greater flexibility (25%) whereas dads mentioned higher pay (15%).

Who’s taking care of the kids today?
Clearly the largest divide within the millennial parenting mindset portrayed by the report arrived with the third question. Three-quarters (75%) of all moms surveyed saw themselves as the primary child-care provider; just 37% of dads felt the same way. And when asked if they shared parenting responsibility equally, a solid 30% difference separated moms (19%) from dads (49%). This wide discrepancy shows that men may overestimate the work they do, and women may underestimate that work. 

What should employers offer to help employees be responsible parents?
Undeniable unity surfaced among working millennials when it came to the last survey question. Together young working moms and dads called flexibility in time-off options (97%), work-time flexibility (97%), disability insurance (96%) and life insurance (92%) as a “must” or “nice” to have.

The burdens of bringing home a paycheck after bringing home a baby aren’t new for families with two working parents. They have long included taking time off from the office to provide primary care at home, changing careers and searching for companies that provide concrete forms of aid. But what distinguishes moms and dads of the millennial generation, men and women soon to eclipse other generations as the largest in the modern workforce, is the belief in shouldering the parenting sacrifices together to a greater degree – even if they don’t agree as to the amount that the other spouse does. It is a trend worth taking to heart, for soon more than a survey will show how they’re making it so.

Jason Godin is associate editor of Fathers for Good.