The stereotype that men are from Mars and women are from Venus is imploding.
Family researchers tracking the differences between the sexes over the years are finding men and women becoming much more alike and living much more similar lives, says Barbara J. Risman, professor and head of the sociology department at the University of Illinois at Chicago and executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families.
Moms, she says, are almost as equally committed to work as dads while dads want to spend more time with the kids. Today’s dads also shoulder much more of the household duties than in days past, from doing dishes to separating the whites from the colors when they do the laundry.
The change in thinking is great news for the next generation, Risman says. Boys who have emotionally nurturing fathers become emotionally nurturing themselves, eventually leading to healthier, happier relationships when the boys become men, marry and have their own kids, she says.
But there’s a rub.
While many of today’s dads want more time with the family to nurture, Risman says many employers still see the role of dads as bringing home a paycheck and the role of moms as raising the kids.
Where moms find some accommodations to help balance work and family, dads find discouragement and inflexibility when they try to take a more significant role in child rearing, Risman says.
If there’s a takeaway message from all the research the Chicago-based council has been collecting the past 10 years, it’s this: times are changing. Says Risman: People need to start thinking about fathers the same way as they do about mothers and help them better balance their careers and family life.
It’s a perfect time to start.
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