Men, Divorce, and Happiness

Men, Divorce, and Happiness

Some bits of news  to slip in before the long holiday weekend , when you’ll surrender to the seductive aroma of the grill and a tall glass of your favorite iced beverage with sunscreen at the ready. Ahhh.

Social scientists have documented men moving into traditionally “pink collar” jobs like nursing and teaching. The pace has accelerated since the recession started, and it is not clear if men will flee primarily female job sectors when employment improves and more jobs become available. Some men report that family obligations played a role in their decision, and the trend is seen across all ethnic groups and ages,  even amongst the college-educated.  Some say that gender stereotypes are fading, making it easier for men to be receptionists, bank tellers and table servers. Of course, men will earn more, even as they move into female-dominant job sectors, and progress more rapidly, too. For more, see “More Men Enter Fields Dominated by Women.”

It’s no surprise that Americans work more hours than Europeans. We don’t have the same expectations as to paid time off and leisure, and our differing labor policies reflect that. However, it has recently come to light that one reason American women stay in the paid labor force more than others is that divorce rates in this country are considerably higher. Economic researchers suggest women here have an incentive to acquire work experience to insure future economic security in “On Work Hours in the U.S. and Europe. On the other hand, divorce rates do not push the employment rate of American men up. That’s a double standard we don’t often think about.

A new Gallup poll finds that stay at home, out of the paid labor force moms report more sadness and anger than mothers employed outside the home. Of course, there’s no data as to the reason behind the responses, but I would like to pose a hypothetical explanation. Perhaps the women doing it feel the deeply conflicted messages our culture and society heap upon motherhood. To my mind, sadness and anger are appropriate responses when you find the work you feel inspired and compelled to do is demeaned and dismissed as “unskilled labor”,  looked down upon as a “waste” of an education, not worthy of reducing your work hours for, and of making no contribution to the public good. Call me crazy, but that would tick me off too! Do you think the survey is a load of hooey? Do you think my theoretical explanation is?

All right, that’s a wrap – off to the beach.  Happy Memorial Day.

‘Til next time,

Your (Wo)Man in Washington

About Valerie Young

Valerie Young is a public policy analyst who focuses on the economic status of mothers and other family caregivers. She promotes social justice by arming mothers with information and a healthy dose of outrage. She is the Advocacy Coordinator at the National Association of Mothers' Centers, and is a reporter for The Shriver Report and contributor to Brain/Child Magazine. Follow her blog, Your (Wo)Man in Washington, on Twitter @WomanInDC and on Facebook as Valerie Young and Your (Wo)Man in Washington.

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  • JLSchuster

    Having spent many years as a freelance writer and at-home mom, I felt both sides of the issue. And attribute any sadness and anger I felt during the at-home years to what you suggest–but along with that, some of the isolation and solitude one can experience when at home with small (and endlessly) demanding children. There were days I thought it would never end–now that it has, I’m astonished that the time has gone. I agree with your take, and wish we had a culture more supportive of the needs of all mothers and their work, whatever and wherever that work takes them.