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Men and Women Experience Similar Troubles in Balancing Personal and Work Life

Does this come as a surprise?

Balancing personal and work life has become a big struggle. People are striving to be successful in the business world, but they still want to have a decent personal life. Everyone wants to be successful, but everyone wants to be happy as well. Does success make you happy? Well, in most cases it does, but not completely. It surely helps in achieving the overall happiness in life, but it doesn’t equal it.

What’s the key to a happy life?

The key to a happy life is most often in finding a good balance between different aspects of your life. That is the area where people nowadays have a problem with. Perfectionism has become some kind of a norm, and people are put under a pressure to be a perfect worker, perfect spouse and perfect parent.

Even though the times are changing, women are still considered to be the primary caregivers, while men are still considered to be the main breadwinners. However, is the picture that media keeps portraying really accurate?

The research

American Psychological Association decided to find it out and conducted a research exploring the difference between men and women when it comes to difficulties in balancing personal and work life, i.e. work-family conflicts.

The research lasted for several years, and it meant going through more than 350 studies that were conducted in over a three-decade period. It included more than 250,000 participants from all over the world. The lead researcher Kristen Shockley, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia was surprised by the results.

She claims that the stress reported in balancing personal and work life was very similar between men and women. Shockley reports: “This is quite contrary to the common public perception. The way this issue is presented in the media frames the way we think about it, and it creates a perpetual cycle. Women hear that other women are struggling with this issue, so they expect they will experience greater work-family conflict. There also is some socialization for it being OK for women to talk more about it than men.”

Balancing Personal and Work Life With Family

Why is that so?

The problem might be that men don’t feel comfortable discussing the subject because of the traditional role of the breadwinner that is still present in the society. They might feel vulnerable talking about the subject as it would make them less masculine in a traditional sense of values, or that it would have a negative effect on their careers. However, in anonymous surveys, they felt more comfortable discussing the subject. That may be the reason why the results were so surprising.

Approximately half of the studies included in the meta-analysis were conducted in the United States, while the remainder were spread mostly across countries in Europe and Asia. The researchers also examined ratings of gender equality for the countries where the studies were conducted, and they were surprised to find that men and women reported similar levels of work-family conflict regardless of the level of gender equality in their country. However, few studies on work-family conflicts have been conducted in the Middle East, where vast gender inequality is common, which could produce different findings there” Shockley said.

Similar, but not the same.

Although men and women fell similarly dissatisfied with the balance between work and personal life, they don’t manifest the same way. Women still feel more guilty about it because of the role they still have in society. Men feel dissatisfied, but feel less guilt about it because they are still seen as the main breadwinners.

However, the times are changing and more and more men decide to take the paternity leave while women are at work, pursuing their careers. Shockley concludes that: “Company and government policies should provide greater support for work-family policies that benefit both women and men, including flexible work arrangements, child care support and both paid maternity and paternity leave. Only 9 percent of workplaces in the United Sates offer paid paternity leave, compared to 21 percent with maternity leave, with the United States ranking near last in the world on both issues. The United States, Suriname and Papua New Guinea are the only countries that don’t guarantee any paid maternity or paternity leave“.

It is important to discuss subjects like these in order to make some progress.