I am starting to see a new trend of burnout in both professional men and women. And no one is talking about it.
Women are delaying motherhood and investing heavily in their careers:
Professional and relational landscapes for men and women, specifically couples, have changed in the past few decades. As a result, so have the pressures.
Twenty to thirty years ago, it was still common for a woman to get married and begin having children in her twenties. But according to Pew, “women are delaying motherhood in their 20’s.”
We are seeing more couples that consist of two professionals:
In heterosexual relationships, many professional men, who are getting married later, are partnering with women who are pursuing ambitious careers too. So, as a result, women have careers that are growing in responsibility and pressure, just like men do. And as the research supports, they’ve also postponed having kids and waited until their mid-thirties to have kids.
Both partners are in critical positions by their mid-thirties and are being asked to “lean in” to demonstrate future senior leadership potential:
Many of these 30 to 40-year-old women are at high points in their careers because they’re really, really skilled. They have 8 to 14 years of excellent experience. They have been working very hard to stand out, exceed expectations, make it on the company’s high potential list, and people are starting to spot them for future leadership opportunities.
Both parties develop their careers and shape their way right up the ladder. They’re both in these “lean-in” moments in their career because their organizations say, “You know, you’ve proven yourself. So now we’re watching you. You might be future leadership material.”
And although both partners’ career demands are quite high, these couples are choosing to start their families:
And then, they have babies. But out of necessity, the domesticated roles have shifted, creating new pressures on men and relationships as a whole. Now, men are expected to do at least half of the domestic housework. Women are saying, “I have a great career too! You can do half of it.”
Both partners are trying to keep up with high-demand jobs while splitting child-rearing and domestic responsibilities evenly:
So because both parties have great careers with expectations, pressure, and high potential but delayed having kids, they both have a new collective pressure on effectively negotiating domestic obligations and maintaining relational bliss. And it isn’t working.
And it’s exhausting:
I am hearing and seeing the effects of burnout, primarily for men. First, it is twice as much work as it was for their dads. These couples are having a double “lean in” moment. They both want to excel at work as expected, support their partner’s careers, and have a family with a happy yet functional domestic experience.
I am seeing this dynamic add unique stress to many of my male clients. The challenges are real, and seemingly, none of their employers seem to be aware. Don’t get me wrong; women have increasing pressures too! We are still expected to get up with the baby ten times a night, repair the scraped knee compassionately, and craft fresh cupcakes for birthday parties. Nothing has changed in that department except for MORE pressure.
It’s harder for men to see older male role models who have paved a similar path:
Again, let’s recall a bit: These men are struggling to navigate this new paradigm because they were raised and observed a completely different structure. So, they need help to figure out what the balance between a high-potential path at work and a successful relationship looks like. Their parents got together much younger, had babies earlier, and did a divide-and-conquer strategy. But now, it’s different, and burnout is starting to be the unintended result.
I am seeing a massive amount of pressure on men that is equal and similar to the enormous pressure on women. However, there is a lot more talk about the pressure on women. This is an emerging trend, and I don’t see anyone talking about it. And because nobody’s talking about it, people are probably suffering in silence.
Leaders need to ask more questions from their high-performing parents and find ways to support them – regardless of gender:
However, in this new paradigm, there are fresh and, at times, confusing pressures on men. But their leaders and bosses are not only unaware but may be losing them to burnout or all together. Their leaders need to “lean in” themselves and understand more about these pressures. Remember, this is the high-potential group; the group they invested in, with high value and a ton of runway.
As an organization, these are the ones you want to develop and retain. These are future ripple makers, change agents, and leaders of your businesses and industries. And if you don’t lean in and get clear on their pressures or if you don’t understand the issues and respond, something will break.
What are you seeing?