Someone told me the other day that 70% of millennial women are thinking that they do not want to have children for a variety of reasons including their desire to have a career first. Then on the other hand something like 35% of male millennials are interested in staying home for a period of time to raise their family. Having it all is impossible at least at the same time. Something gives and from those statistics it sounds like the millennials are acutely aware of that.
Our daughter Emily just handed in her thesis. The title is Life Sequencing: A Viable Solution to Work-Life Conflict for High-Achieving Women. What came across loud and clear is a few things. The lack of childcare options is certainly one. That many of these high-achieving women end up marrying someone who is in the same socio-economic bracket and because of that they can make a decision to stay at home. That is the piece I continue to think about.
When I meet women and men I often ask a bit about their backgrounds. What does your Dad do? What does your Mom do? Where did you grow up? A huge percentage of the people I see came from families where the Mom stayed home and raised the kids. A tough job and no doubt commendable. I did it for awhile and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Yet many of these women never went back to work for a variety of reasons.
I remember when our kids were young we would go down to DC and visit my Mom. My Mom had several careers. The kids would go visit here at her office. She was an entrepreneur. It was obvious that she ran the place. I always left thinking how great it was that our kids especially our daughters saw that my Mom had built her own company and worked hard. I also used to tell our daughters that you must figure out how to be an entrepreneur or do something where you can freelance so when it comes time to have kids that you will be able to continue working in some capacity to keep your intellectual curiosity going and kids don’t stay small forever.
Mothers are role models for their children. Telling your daughters to go to the best schools, excel in school, be the best, do anything you want to do when you took off to raise them and never went back to work is not setting an example. It is saying that at one point you can jump off the train and not get back on. Then history repeats itself. How do we break this cycle? Certainly having more men get off the train would be a step in the right direction.
I hope that the next generation of parents both opt to stay home in some capacity. If you get off the train for a little bit then get back on. Trains don’t hang out in the station for long. Those role models are essential to the future for women leaders in the workplace.