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Can modern dads have it all? Work realities clash with Millennial men's ideals

When it comes to work-life balance, it seems the country's young fathers start out with great expectations that don't quite work out.
/ Source: TODAY

When it comes to work-life balance, it seems the country’s young fathers start out with great expectations that don’t quite work out when they hit the corporate world.

Members of the Millennial generation — more than 80 million Americans ages 18 to 29 — are now starting families, with men and women eager to equally share responsibilities of raising a child and thrive in their careers. They're finding that goal is harder than they imagined.

"There are real challenges in young couples obtaining the types of relationships that they want,” David Pedulla, a sociologist at University of Texas, told TODAY.

The issue is getting lots of attention after an article in The New York Times on Thursday declared “Millennial Men Aren’t the Dads They Thought They’d Be.”

Related link: Baseball player criticized for paternity leave says it was 'best thing'

“More than any generation before them, Millennials say they want 50/50 marriages. They want to do the same amount of childcare, they say they want to do the same amount of housework, and they both want to have careers that are equally important,” said Claire Cain Miller, the author of the article.

It all seems possible in theory, but experts say the modern American workplace isn't up to date with the Millennial mindset. Policies like subsidized childcare, flexible schedules and paid leave have helped women, but men may find their careers suffering if they take advantage of the same perks.

“Often, if a man asks for something like paternity leave or to leave early, he's stigmatized. He might not get a promotion, he might not get a raise,” Cain Miller said.

Related: 10 things working dads wish you knew

When faced with such challenges, young couples tend to go back to more old-fashioned gender roles, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review.

“When they run up against the reality of having really demanding work places and really demanding home lives, they tend to fall back on traditional and gender forms of relationships, where women are the primary homemaker and men are the primary bread winner,” Pedulla said.

Related: Why the TOMS CEO thinks paid paternity leave is good for business

So how can young dads — and moms — have it all?

The ideals of the Millennials may clash with the realities of the workplace for now, but that may change as the country’s young workers become policy makers a few years down the road.

“Millennials are already the largest generation in the American workforce. And so as they climb the executive ranks, they can shape policies that more accurately reflect the way they want to live their lives,” Cain Miller said.

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