The cry for a better balance between work and life is deeply rooted in generational attitudes and behaviors.
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) tended to be workaholics—causing the average time their Gen X children spent with an adult role model during a typical day to fall to about 14.5 minutes.
Despite their parents’ attempt to make these fleeting moments “quality time,” adult Gen Xers (born 1965-1981) are determined not to let their own work life intrude on the time they spend with their family.
However, as Boomer Anne-Marie Slaughter so eloquently points out in her controversial and interesting Atlantic magazine article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, implementing the concept of work/life balance can be challenging—especially for women.
As a result, the children of Boomers and Xers, members of the Millennial generation (born 1982-2003), are searching for an alternative approach to incorporating the obligations to family and the demands of work.
The desire of Millennials of both sexes for a “blended life” will remake how work is organized and what is expected from each parent in the years to come.
Ryan Healy, (pictured right) the COO and co-founder of Brazen Careerist, clearly articulated his generation’s desire for something completely different than the work/life balance exhibited by his Gen X elders early in his career.
“I would never dream of saying I want a Family/Life balance. … This whole notion of needing to separate work and life implies that your career, which takes up about 75% of your day, is something you simply try to get through so you can go home and do what you really enjoy for the other 25%. What a terrible way to live. My purpose is to be successful, genuinely happy and to make a difference in this world. … The balance doesn’t work, we already know this. I don’t want to choose. I want a blended life.” Click here to read more.
Millennials like Healy have the most gender-neutral attitudes of any generation in American history.
Unleashed from traditional societal constraints, Millennial women have reached new heights of accomplishment in comparison to men.
For instance, by 2016, women are projected to earn about two-thirds of all undergraduate and master’s degrees and even 56 percent of the doctorates that will be awarded in the United States. Millennial gender-neutrality has also led to a perspective on feminism that isn’t defined in comparison to men.
Jen Kalaidis, (pictured at left) is a writer and marketer in DC who describes her Millennial sisters’ attitudes this way, “Today’s women were raised to believe we were equal to men, but we didn’t have to try to be them to prove it. We play sports, go to college, start businesses, have babies, and travel the world on our own terms. We aren’t constantly trying to out-man the boys, play for play.”
All of this female success has led some male Millennials to rethink what it means to be a man in today’s society.
Two of them, Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil, wrote about “Men’s Lib” in Newsweek and took issue with those “who argue that men are ‘designed’ for some gigs and not others … women long ago proved that gender essentialism doesn’t determine what kind of work they can do. … The time has come for a similar expansion of what men can do for a living.”
Romano and Dokoupil expect to see greater participation in housework and child-rearing from the men in their generation as well, with Millennial fathers creating a demand for, and taking advantage of, paternity-leave opportunities as they become more available.
As Millennials marry and start families and pursue their individual careers, employers who wish to attract the best talent of the generation will have no choice but to accommodate their desire for a more blended life.
Such things as telecommuting, flexible hours, child care, and round-the-clock access to technology will become essential elements of the benefits package employers will need to offer their workforce.
With Millennials on track to become more than one out of every three adult Americans by the end of this decade, their desire for a seamless blend between working and raising a family will generate a new national consensus on the importance of enabling the full participation of both sexes in all aspects of American life.