Executive Parents: Working Mother Generations Report Reveals Wide Disparity On Attitudes Towards Work Life Balance

Tired parents punishing children by taping to wall
© Photographer: Stephen Denness | Agency: Dreamstime.com

 

A new survey of 2,163 moms and dads about the impact their generational status has on their own work life choices and satisfaction was released today by the Working Mother Research Institute. The study, which examines attitudes of Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers, finds Millennials are the happiest generation of parents, reporting they have a secure and stable job (65%), are upbeat about their family finances (64%) and are most satisfied with their relationship with their spouse (71%).  But not all their news is rosy: Millennials express ambivalence about the current state of work-life balance, with 60% saying they believe one parent should stay home to care for the children.

Commissioned to mark the 35th anniversary of Working Mother magazine, the “Working Mother Generations Report” found the greatest disparity in generational attitudes on work-life issues lies between Millennials (born 1981-2000) and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964).   Highlights include:

  • A total of 71% of Millennials says they are satisfied with their choice to be a working or stay-at-home parent vs. 59% of Boomers.
  • Millennials report higher satisfaction with their relationship with their spouse/partner, with 71% reporting they are satisfied vs. 56% for Boomers.
  • 75% of Millennials are satisfied with their partners’ contribution to the family’s finances, while only 58% of the Boomers are.
  • Millennials score highest (60%) in believing one parent should stay home to care for the children, over Generation X (50%) and Boomers (55%). And yet, they also are more likely to believe that when a mom works outside the home, it sets a positive example for her children (62%), Gen X (57%) and Boomers (55%).

Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media, says, “This report finds fascinating differences among the generations, with parents in each group having their own ideas about the best ways to manage career and family obligations. These are important differences employers should note as they tailor work life policies to benefit the widest range of working parents.”

WIDE GENERATION GAPS ON VIEWS OF OUR OWN WORKING MOTHERS— AND WHAT WE WANT FOR OUR CHILDREN

Working Mother magazine launched in 1979, just as Boomer Moms entered the workforce in large numbers. Thirty-five years later, with 68% of partnered moms and 75% of single moms working outside the home, the impact of that major workforce shift is still being felt among the three generations making up the majority of American workers today.

  • Millennial parents are more likely to say they are proud of their mom’s decision to work (45% vs. 34% of Boomers and 37% of Gen Xers, who were born between 1965 and 1980).
  • Mothers who are currently stay-at-home are almost as likely to have grown up with a working mom (74%) as those mothers who are now working themselves (78%).
  • Surprisingly, less than half of the working moms surveyed say they hope their daughters will become working parents.. While an overwhelming majority of working moms want their sons and daughters to have a career (97% and 92%, respectively), only 38% hope their daughters will become working parents. By comparison, 78% of working moms hope their sons will become working parents.
  • Notably, however, daughters brought up by breadwinning moms (the primary earner for their family) are more likely to say they are currently the primary earner for their own family.

Kelly M. Semrau, Senior Vice President—Global Corporate Affairs, Communication and Sustainability at SC Johnson, says, “As a mother of two girls, I felt a personal connection to this research, which is essential to understand working parents’ needs by generation. With its valuable insights, businesses like ours can develop programs and benefits that address each generation.”

VIEWS VARY ON WORK LIFE STRESS BY GENERATION

  • More than half of all Millennials say that flex causes work to interfere with family time vs. only a quarter of Boomers. Millennials report working the same average hours—7.8 daily—as the other generations, but roughly half say they “cannot get away from work.”
  • Millennials are much more likely to say they would prefer to work even if they did not have to financially (47%) vs. Gen X (37%) and Boomers (36%).
  • Gen X is the least likely generation to say they’re fulfilling a higher purpose through work than just making money (13 percentage points lower than Millennials and 8 percentage points lower than Boomers).

Generation X has a “front row seat to work life tensions,” says Working Mother Research Institute Director Jennifer Owens. “This is not that surprising, considering that this generation is striving to move into higher positions at work, while also working to guide their children through homework, after-school activities and everything else, with an eye towards college. Meanwhile, Boomers are thinking about their own future changes, including retirement, and are mostly likely to be dealing with elder care issues with their parents.”

 

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