I’ve seen a few articles recently which mention the fact that the layoffs in the current recession are hitting men much harder than women (having something to do with more men being employed in finance and manufacturing, two industries suffering the most). And more than a few news stories and commentators have mentioned that men being laid off is actually good for women. The logic goes like this: Men get laid off. They go home and start taking over more domestic duties, like childcare and cleaning and cooking. This frees up more time for women who then head back into the labor force.
OK, I am sure some very smart people have studied these trends and determined that this is what’s going to happen. And yes, it’s true that more moms are heading back to work or cutting their maternity leaves short during this recession. But I doubt very much that they are doing this because their husbands are doing more around the house. Rather, they are doing this because they need to support their families financially. In other words, they are doing it because they have to, not because they want to.
I work, always have and always will. I like to work and I derive a lot of benefits from working — sense of achievement, intellectual stimulation, fun from meeting interesting people and learning new things. But do I really want to work 50-60 hours a week, which are the hours that the jobs in my line of work require? No, I do it because I have to and if it were up to me, I’d work a lot less.
I’m not alone. Many studies have suggested that the majority of women would prefer to work part-time (we had a great discussion about the pros and cons of working part-time, which I encourage you to check out). One of the most recent studies showed that only 21% of women with kids under 18 would prefer to work full-time (72% of fathers said full-time work is their preferred situation). Full-time work is hard, it doesn’t have a ton of flexibility, especially if you work in an office/corporate setting, and to suggest that women going back to work in this recession are doing it because they are choosing to do it is a bit short-sighted, in my opinion.
Oh, and about those newly-minted laid-off husbands: The same article mentions a study of women in 37 countries, which showed that what makes women happy is not more help from their mates around the house, but being married to someone who loves them and makes at least 2/3 of the family’s income. Feminism, it seems, hasn’t changed our ingrained notions of what roles men and women should have in the family.