Portrait of a Modern Family

images-2There was a great article in the NYTimes this week called; Stressed, Tired, Rushed; A Portrait of a Modern Family.  It was based on a new piece of research from the Pew Center survey.  Nearly 50% of all children will grow up in a family where both parents work.  That is a huge shift from decades ago, 30% difference compared to 1970.  60% of children now live in households where the parents work either full or part-time. The shift has a lot to do with economics but it also has to do with women pursuing their own careers and not wanting to get off the work train for life.  There are also a slew of options for women that were not available 30 years ago.

Not surprising is that college educated parents had the hardest time of trying to do it all.  They are finding it hard to be a caring and present parent, be productive at work and also have a relationship with their spouse.  There are only 24 hours in the day.  The majority of the workplace structure has not caught up to the world we live in today.

Women still do the lion share of the work in the family even though they carry half the income weight.  There are plenty of companies being built to make life easier for the family such as Hop Skip Drive or Kitchensurfing or the beauty of Amazon prime.  Some companies are waking up to flexibility in the workplace too.  Yet this is a social dilemma that should be thought about more and pushed to change from a Government policy perspective too.

Every working mother founder that I spoke to after reading this article all said the same thing.  They felt that they were not doing anything well.  That they weren’t able to be the parent they wanted to their kids, they couldn’t be the partner they wanted to be to their spouse and they rarely saw friends yet they were growing companies and that is one of the hardest things to do hands down.

What is the answer?  Childcare is a huge issue.  How can we get all companies to have a facility at work that is affordable?  Should their be tax incentives to companies to do that?  How do we create environments where there is flexibility in your job as long as you get the job done.  I see so many medium staged start-ups employ people who work in other places of the country as part of the team and sometimes lead a team even though they do not come into the main office every day.  It works because of technology.  We are probably seeing the movement to urban living because of all of these statistics.  Men want the same balance in their family/work life now more than ever before.

It is complicated.  It is stressful.  There is not a magic bullet here but it is a huge social issue that is only getting bigger.  The average age of people in the US is 37 years old and that is prime time of parenting.  That means that this issue is bigger than we realize.  It is time for companies to be truly innovative around this topic.  It isn’t just about longer maternity/paternity leave or flexible vacations it is about help.  Maybe it does take a village to raise a family and that village should be the company.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jenna Abdou

    Thanks for another informative post, Joanne! It’s great being exposed to these topics. I really enjoyed this one and look forward to seeing what happens.

  2. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Sometimes it seems like the new wave companies are even more in denial about the facts of parenthood than the old school ones. There is an assumption that employees are childless (perhaps because they skew so young – both founders and staff). Those with children are expected to figure it out on their own.I think they *do* believe that longer parental leave and flexible hours/vacations covers it. It helps, for sure. But it doesn’t do anything at all when one is required to travel for work, for instance.

    1. panterosa,

      Totally. Childless workers scoff at the work of parents, until they become parents themselves.

  3. daryn

    Hits close to home. My wife and I have staggered schedules (I do drop off, she does pickup, she’s in early, I’m up late), so while we both have time with the kids, we get a lot less time together as an entire family, and even less as a couple. We try to make the most of those times together, but usually we’re so tired at that point that we’d rather take the kids to a movie than get out for an adventure. There’s always been a “lets do this for awhile” mindset, but it’s really easy to let awhile continue indefinitely.

    1. Gotham Gal

      date night is essential.

      1. daryn

        I think we had one of those last year… Seriously, we really should do them more, but when the opportunity arises to have both of us at home without distraction, it’s hard not to try and do something for the kids.

        1. Gotham Gal

          put it in the calendar every two weeks. it is truly essential.

          1. pointsnfigures

            +1000%. And turn your phones off when you go. Focus on having a conversation. Back in the day, we’d give the babysitter the number of the restaurant or movie theatre we’d be at since we didn’t have cell phones.

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Gotta agree with GG here. It’s healthy for you and the kids. Honest.

        3. Susan Rubinsky

          Hope you can find a way to make date night happen. It really is essential as Gotham Gal said.

          1. panterosa,

            Totally agree with you and GG and Kirsten. Not only do you get to be an adult, it’s vital to stave off the impending feeling you are losing yourself, and your partnership in one fell swoop.

  4. panterosa,

    Joanne, so glad you keep raising this topic, as a mother yourself, as a funder to women led companies and startups – it needs to keep being raised until it’s solved.Younger men are coming around to this more than their fathers, and that’s great trend I hope to see as an active voice to support their women and families.There is a big conflict though on startups wanting their workers, founders included to keep crazy work hours. It seems to me a huge fallacy that more hours = better/more work, since mainly more hours working = more stress to the individual and family unit. I am fascinated by Sweden’s 6 hour work day, and will try it myself.When we wear our workers down, they do a worse job at everything. How can massive hours still make sense? Do you feel we suffer from young all-nighter culture brought from university into young companies? It’s like a badge of honor to get no sleep for some people.

    1. awaldstein

      No one agrees more–and I have done my share–to balance a work force and incorporate the realities of being a parent into how we deal with work culture.Disagree with you on the rest.Building high growth companies is hard. It’s crazy. It’s tense.You can build a culture of diversity and respect.You can’t legislate out the rest.

      1. Gotham Gal

        Agree. You have to be there 24/7 but technology can help

        1. awaldstein

          Yup–this idea that startups are anything but hard that there is a work life balance rather than a work life integration is just not reality.I love that people are demanding that our workplaces like society changes and becomes more respectful and thoughtful as a team.But it is a grind. It’s really hard. It’s tense by nature. I so love it for what it is.

  5. Susan Rubinsky

    I soooooooo get this. I was lucky enough to work for a tech startup during Web 1.0, when my son was a toddler. Because it was a tech company that specialized in web-based portal software that united all of a company’s disparate digital assets, work from home was easy and viable (key for days when my son was sick or his daycare was closed for some holiday that only schools stay closed for). I just logged into our portal and everything was there. My boss was in another office in another city and state so we were used to working digitally anyway. IM was key.However, when that job ended, I never found another job that was as flexible (this was the early 2000’s). I gave up on that and created my own business. It is disheartening to hear about how difficult it is for young working families. It is almost as if the technology was supposed to bring flexibility but instead brought workaholism.

    1. panterosa,

      “It is almost as if the technology was supposed to bring flexibility but instead brought workaholism.” Sadly you’re right.I would love to see the workaholism self-important busy-ness that leads people to feel that their work defines them more valuably than the rest of their life.

  6. leslie

    Hi, I wonder if you would consider writing about Malinda Pennoyer Chouinard? She is the wife and partner of Yvon Chouinard founder of Patagonia. I believe it was she who initiated an onsite day care for employees well over 20 years ago. That and much more, make not surprising the average number of applicants (900) for each job they list.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Wow. Had no idea. Will do a little research

      1. Gotham Gal


  7. pointsnfigures

    Totally on point questions. Hard answers. I think they are varied and different for every individual which makes public policy hard. Your daughter’s study might have something to say about this. When she is done with it will be interesting to see if she turns up any insights.

  8. Julia kirsch

    Great post! We are the busy couple you have described but have chosen to not have children, as we found it was not a priority in either of our minds/hearts. Things that are: jobs we love, flexibility, world travel (work and personal), family time (“ours” as well as extended family), volunteering, dining at restaurants (often with friends!), sleeping in on weekends, reading, Game of Thrones, seeing movies, other people’s children (really!). Not for everyone but it works for us (married 10 years, 42/38 y/o)!