Moreover, it’s hard to take a snapshot of happiness. When you have a job you like and a family you love and you’re managing to juggle it, it’s often exhilarating! On the other hand, when your child is sick or you are continually exhausted from multi-tasking, you can often feel, as my husband has written about hisexperience as a lead parent, that you are “doing a bad job as both a parent and a professional.” It’s complicated.[…] We have revolutionized women’s roles in my lifetime. But real equality between women and men remains elusive: We are stuck with only 20 percent of top jobs held by women and more than 30 percent of women living in poverty or on its brink – a combination I refer to as an “unlovely symmetry.” The vast majority of those women at the bottom are single mothers, people who must be breadwinners and caregivers both with little social or economic support.
We value women today chiefly to the extent that they are engaged in men’s traditional work – earning a living and advancing in their jobs or careers. We do not value women’s traditional work of care, even though that work is just as essential to human flourishing as the production of income. That leaves an enormous full-time job to be done around the edges of another full-time job. Wealthy women can buy their way out of that problem by hiring much poorer women. But poor women are stuck. And men are missing out on precisely what so many working women want: the joys of a job and of a family you actually see and care for.
Happiness is not the issue. Equality is the issue. We need real parity in roles and values, a world in which we ask young men just as often as we ask young women how they are going to fit their work and their families together – whether it’s caring for children or at some point their own parents, or a sick or disabled spouse or sibling.