A Work/Life Balance May Not Be Possible, According To A New Pew Study, So We May Not Be Able To Have It All... Ever
We constantly hear about the ongoing struggle of "finding a work/life balance," but is it really ever achievable? Maybe not, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Their report, titled "Raising Kids and Running a Household: How Working Parents Share the Load," examined how parents handle responsibilities from work and home life, as well as the changing family structure in America. Increasingly more and more households have two working parents — 46 percent of households have two parents working full-time, compared to just 31 percent of households in 1970. The end result is that both parents feel constantly exhausted and overworked, making the fabled "work/life balance" essentially a myth.
The Pew study looked at how responsibilities were divvied up among 1,800 parents with children under the age of 18 parents and how they handled all of the work. The results are fascinating and multi-faceted: Firstly, if you're wondering why our family structures have changed so drastically since the '70s, money seems to be the answer. The median household income for families with two parents working full-time with at least one child under 18 is $102,400, compared with just $55,000 for those where one parent (typically the father) works and the other (typically the mother) stays home. As common wisdom says, it's just not possible to achieve the American Dream anymore with only one parent working — the cost of living is too high, especially with salaries essentially having stagnated.
Here are five of the study's biggest takeaways. To see the full results, head over to the Pew Research Center.
1. Most Parents Say It's Difficult To Find A Balance
56 percent of working parents report finding it difficult to juggle all of their professional and personal responsibilities. There were also both racial and gender gaps in these findings, however: 60 percent of working mothers said they found it difficult, compared to 52 percent of working fathers, for example. Furthermore — and interestingly, I think — white parents were more likely to report having a difficult time juggling everything than non-white parents: 57 percent of white fathers and 65 percent of white mothers reported feeling the stress, while 44 percent of non-white working fathers and 52 percent of non-white working mothers said the same.
2. Being A Parent Doesn't Seem To Interfere With Career Advancement
59 percent of parents said that their role as a mother of father didn't influence their job or make it harder for them to rise in their career. In fact, one in 10 said that being a parent has actually made it easier for them to advance. But, for those who reported it being more difficult, women were twice as likely to report this disparity.
3. Moms Do More Work...
Probably unsurprisingly, mothers are doing more household work than fathers. 59 percent of working parents say that the mother in the family takes on more work than the father, while only five percent say that the father does more. This same trend held true in every category, from taking care of sick children, to dividing household chores, to playing with their kids.
4. ...But Fathers Are Earning More
In households where both parents work at least part-time, 59 percent reported the father earning more than the mother. Only 23 percent said they earned equally, and just 17 percent said the mother earned more than the father. In families that have a mother working only part-time, the disparity was even larger, with 83 percent of these families having a father out earning the mother. Finally, for households that have two parents who both work full-time jobs, 50 percent say the father is the top earner, with only 22 percent saying the mother is.
Both this point and the previous one are unsurprising, yet quite discouraging. They demonstrate how women are still frequently taking on more of the caregiving and household responsibilities, even though both parents work, as well as illustrate the gender wage gap in action.
5. Experiences As Parents Could Determine How Easily A Work/Life Balance Is Found
A really interesting finding in this study was that one's perception of parenthood could determine how likely they were to report being able to find a work/life balance. Those who said it was hard to find a balance were less likely to say that being a parent was enjoyable all of the time (only 36 reported this), while those who said they were able to find a balance were more likely to report enjoying being a parent all the time (50 percent). This could be an example of the self-fulfilling prophecy, which states that your thoughts and attitudes about things help to determine their outcome.
So, finding a work/life balance for those who work and have children might still be possible, but it's definitely not without its challenges. Based on the findings of this report, I would also argue that it's particularly challenging for mothers, who face all kinds of sexist barriers and double standards, making that balance even more difficult to achieve. Maybe feminism could be the answer to this problem? Just a thought.