Suzanne Levine, a nationally recognized authority on the choices women make as they age, writes an article for the Women’s Media Center about what she calls “the masculine mystique”:
Now, as gender roles adapt to new family values, comes a new mystique—“the male mystique,” so named by the prestigious Families and Work Institute in a recent study. It finds men increasingly stressed out by trying to achieve an unattainable standard of the perfect father, husband, and breadwinner. Just like Having It All, this mystique is an unintended consequence of a revolution in the way men and women relate to each other. Back in 2000, in my book Father Courage: What Happens When Men Put Family First I talked about men who desperately wanted to be more involved with their families and do more of their share at home but were constrained by the workplace culture and the prevailing image of how a Real Man prioritized his work and family. One told me that he was so afraid of getting caught leaving his office at 6:00 and being thought not committed to his work that he parked in a distant corner of the parking lot. Another told me that when he went to the playground with his baby daughter on a weekday, people assumed one of two things—that he was unemployed (a failure) or a sexual predator.
Since then a lot has changed. My neighborhood is full of fathers pushing strollers or wearing Snugglis or wiping a messy chin at all hours of the day and night. But the Families and Work Institute reports that they are paying a price. “The New Male Mystique” is stressing out the men who are trying to balance work and family—even more so than women, the study reports. They are finding that the new male version of Having It All is a model of masculinity that is just as oppressive as the Master of the Universe model was 20 years ago.
Nearly all men love their children and want to spend time with them. However, our workplace culture is still, all these years after the fifties, set up on a “one person works, one person stays home” model. The classic “second shift”, in which a person has to come home from a full day of work for another eight hours of taking care of the home and the children, hits both men and women. A more family-friendly workplace and more support for parents who want to take care of their children, not just their careers, is an issue that will help bothmen and women.