Your upbringing plays a big role in how often you work and make time for family
Your parent’s work-life balance can determine how you manage your own.
Career habits we subconsciously pick up from our folks play an important role in how hard and how often we work and make time for family, a new Harvard Business Review study found.
Researcher Ioana Lupu conducted nearly 150 interviews with 80 parents at two global law and accounting firms. She surveyed men and women in management roles raised in middle-class families. The findings suggest that most people fall into a few categories: They either willingly or unintentionally adopt their parents’ example of work-life balance, or they consciously or unknowingly reject their parents’ example.
Women who had working mothers wanted to take after their mom’s commitment to her career. These ladies were less conflicted about their work-family responsibilities, and were able to cope better with the guilt of having to leave their kids during the day to have a successful career.
One participant, Cat, saw both her parents working full-time when she was growing up and now works full-time and is the primary breadwinner. “My parents both worked…we had a full-time nanny at the house. I never believed that being a working parent is a bad thing. I guess that’s probably influenced a lot of why, right now, I think it’s okay for me to be at work,” she told researchers.
Two parent households with a stay-at-home mom have grown much less common in the U.S. since 1970. Today, both parents work full time in 46% of homes, and just a quarter of two-parent households now consist of a full-time working dad and a stay-at-home mom, according to Pew Research Center data from 2015. In 1970, by contrast, both parents worked full time in just 31% of two-parents homes, while a full-time working dad and stay-at-home mom made up a 46% majority.
Other women who grew up with career moms viewed their full-time jobs as more of a stress on their family life because they felt inclined to show up to work even under personal circumstances, like if their kid was sick, but it still didn’t motivate them to change their ways. The study also found some women who grew up with stay-at-home moms that encouraged them to seek out careers and independence were likely to follow that advice.
Most men found themselves having a work-life balance similar to their parents’, specifically their dad’s and the majority of them were the primary breadwinner in their families. People who grew up in families where the father was the breadwinner and worked extensive hours often ended up internalizing the work ethic, with or without realizing it.
While both parents served as role models for participants’ career path, the study found that men and women chose their same-sex parent as the most important influence on their work-life balance choices. For example, a father’s work patterns seem to have had very little influence on their daughters.’
One participant in the study, Frank, grew up seeing his dad work on weekdays and weekends, so he doesn’t find it unusual to work late or put in more hours of his free time.
Despite participants saying they consciously aspired to have a more balanced life, many continued to live by the “work hard and sacrifice personal life” mantra even if they didn’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps.
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