It’s a tale as old as time. Who hasn’t heard about the frazzled professional mom who is trying to have it all but ends up being pulled in one direction or another? Millennials are now becoming those frazzled moms and what the generation who invented the term YOLO is realizing is that when it comes to their kids, those special moments only happen once and they’re missing them due to working too many hours.
That means more Millennial moms are starting to look at work/life balance and demanding that their employers provide them with flexible options. That doesn’t mean that these women have stopped Leaning In. In fact, Millennial moms are big fans of the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, but they want to be able to lean in and not miss out.
This is in stark contrast to the pressure women felt to take the Mommy Track ten years ago. In fact, during that period the imbalance between work and family was what was fueling what The New York Times called the Opt-Out Revolution in 2003. The problem was that Opting out didn’t end up to be a good answer.
The women interviewed for the original Opt-Out New York Times article were recently revisited in an article called The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In. What the author found was that many were either back at work or struggling to get back to work and making small fractions of what they had previously made. Some had divorced their husbands, or their husbands had been laid off. Most of the women were struggling. In the time they had been out of the job market:
The economic landscape had changed greatly since these women — buoyed by their prestigious jobs and degrees, supported by their high-earning husbands, secure in their abilities to shape a new life worthy of their past successes — first decided to leave work and head home. In the years they were out of the work force, many of the professions they left contracted and changed; even once rock-solid fields like law were becoming insecure in ways that no one had previously thought possible.
They also found staying at home changed their marriages and their identities:
Many of the women I spoke with were troubled by the gender-role traditionalism that crept into their marriages once they gave up work, transforming them from being their husbands’ intellectual equals into the one member of their partnership uniquely endowed with gifts for laundry or cooking and cleaning; a junior member of the household, who sometimes had to “negotiate” with her husband to get money for child care.
The answer is not for Millennial moms to leave the workforce, but for employers to find creative ways to keep them there. That means jobs with greater flexibility so that Millennial Moms don’t have to choose between moving ahead and their children.
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