San Jose Mercury News

Published Wednesday, May 3, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News

For younger men, family time is No. 1

Flexible schedules are valued above money, power, prestige

by Nancy Rivera Brooks
Los Angeles Times

Women have grabbed most of the spotlight in the daily drama of balancing job and family, but a study to be released today finds that young men -- most the sons of working mothers -- are putting family first.

Breaking with their fathers and grandfathers, young men said a flexible schedule that gives them more family time is more important than money, power or prestige, according to the study by the Radcliffe Public Policy Center, a Harvard University think tank.

The study is based on a national survey of 1,008 men and women age 21 to 99 years old that examined the attitudes of different generations toward work-life balance, and it found that most Americans have become more family focused.

But younger workers, particularly young men, consider family issues of primary importance. In fact, men in their 20s are more willing than women of the same age to give up pay for more time with their families, the survey found.

``This is the first generation of its kind ever in human history where we have a majority of young men who have come out of homes . . . where the mothers worked full time,'' said Paula Rayman, director of the Radcliffe Public Policy Center and principal investigator in the study titled, ``Life's Work: Generational Attitudes Toward Work and Life Integration.''

``They're saying very clearly that `We don't want to live the same kinds of patterns of life as our fathers and grandfathers,' '' Rayman said.

Slightly more than eight in 10 men age 21 to 39 put a work schedule that allows for family time at the top of their list of important job components, which paces the 85 percent of women from the same age range that made the same selection. For men 40 and older, doing challenging work and having good relationships with co-workers was more important than a family-friendly schedule, according to the survey, which was funded by FleetBostonFinancial and conducted by Harris Interactive.

Younger workers' yen for life balance is not an unhappy legacy of their parents' careers but represents an extension of the strides made by earlier generations, said consultant Bruce Tulgan, who specializes in the attitudes of those born after 1963, commonly known as Generation X.

``Some might say that kids were sad because they had working moms. I beg to differ,'' Tulgan said, founder of RainmakerThinking Inc. of New Haven, Conn. ``My research has found that we had working moms and what great role models we had, and we're going to push those boundaries even more.''

But University of California-Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild said that often workers don't really want what they say they want.

In Hochschild's 1997 book ``The Time Bind,'' she painted a picture of workers putting in long hours because they found their jobs more rewarding than their home lives. Their employer -- an unnamed family-friendly company -- provided generous policies to give employees more family time but they were little used.

``This was a company with a very strong work culture and people found themselves feeling very dedicated at work and feeling that they were more appreciated than at home,'' she said.

Still, Hochschild said the Radcliffe study offers hope, and she would like to see a corporate climate where young workers can find the balance they seek.

Most workers in the Radcliffe study said they want employers to provide flexible work schedules and to respect distinct boundaries between work time and non-work time.

© 2000 Mercury Center.