Since Second Wave Feminism, it's been assumed that "having it all" — that implausibly perfect combination of professional achievement, steady marriage, and serene children — has exclusively preoccupied women. However, that might be a myth, at least in 2013; today, men are the ones who are apparently consumed with having it all.
"Today's Professional Woman Report," a survey conducted by Citibank and LinkedIn, has revealed new insights into the ways men and women view the role of family life in terms of their overall success and goals.
Though most of the millions of Pinterest wedding boards are designed by women, it appears that guys feel it's much more important to put a ring on it. Seventy-nine percent of men equate "having it all" with being in a "strong, loving marriage," while just 66 percent of women agree. In fact, 25 percent of women said they would be satisfied with a "strong, loving relationship" that didn't include marriage; only 14 percent of dudes agreed.
The gap remains just as strong when it comes to having children. The vast majority of women, 73 percent, factor children into their definition of success, but a whopping 86 percent of guys consider kids as part of the equation.
Some are attributing these differences to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her proselytizing mantra for women to "lean in" when it comes to work and professional aspirations. Zach Schoenfeld at the Atlantic Wire writes, "The Lean In generation seems increasingly glad to buck the charge while men push relationships and children to the forefront."
However, it's not clear that these differences are necessarily a 2013 trend, since this is the first time the study decided to actually ask men these questions. The male absence from previous surveys in and of itself reflects an underlying assumption that family issues only plagued working women.
There's also another way to interpret the survey results. Rather than suggesting that men care more about marriage and children, the data may actually reveal that women are more realistic about achieving the elements of "having it all."
Men haven't had to contemplate work-life balances the same way women historically have. For that matter, they also traditionally haven't had to decide between having a career or having a family. "They're rarely even asked how they manage to juggle career with kids," writes Amanda Hess at Slate. As a result, they "don't conceive of a contradiction if [they]'ve never been asked to choose."
And traditionally, being considered a "family man" involved significantly fewer child-rearing responsibilities than it did for women, notes Hess. "Pursuing a family and a career requires less professional sacrifice for men than it does for women, so it's easier to claim to prioritize both in their definition of success."
Furthermore, while men may cite marriage and children more often as part of their definition of success, they interestingly don't prioritize the workplace features that enable a balance with family life. Ninety percent of women said they valued flex time to work from home, compared with 72 percent of men; similarly, 56 percent of women valued a strong maternity/paternity leave policy, compared with 36 percent of men.
So, it may be that men do want it all more than women — they're just a little more naive about how to get it.