It's great that women have pushed, shoved and kicked in the door for equality. But for some reason, depression and unhappiness seem to be wreaking havoc inside the American home. I hear the grievances, as men have lost their jobs at record levels - not of their own doing, by the way - only to be berated as they have trouble finding work. Bear in mind, their wives or significant others have relatively good jobs.
I wonder: Are women really happy in the workplace?
"I'm very happy to be an achiever. I wouldn't have it any other way," said a young lady, a third-year law student at an Ivy League university, who did not want to use her name. "It's just our expectation that a man should work. I know that I will probably do very well in life if everything goes to plan, but there's an expectation that I have for my husband. Ultimately, I think it's really a gender thing."
That seems to be the answer from every woman I talked to. And while many admitted that working put a strain on their marriages, made them tired beyond belief and/or gave them little time for dating, they also said it gave them a sense of empowerment and leveled the playing field within their relationships.
"I think every woman would love to be able to raise their children without the distractions of work," said Shirley Brooks of Detroit. "For many of us, we don't really want to work, but we don't know any other way, especially black women. It gives us a sense of control that I don't think we would have otherwise. Do we wish things could be different? Of course, we do. But I was always taught to have a back-up. And for me, that's my job."
Since the 1960s, tens of millions of women have reinvented their lives as they worked to accommodate careers. They married later and had fewer children. They turned to labor-saving machines and paid others to help handle household work, while men dealt with the reality of role changes in their households. At the peak in 2000, some 77 percent of women in the prime ages of 25 to 54 were in the work force.
Unfortunately, these changes have been proving harder to achieve, as many mothers of all income levels have reached their breaking point.
"What happened on the road to gender equality?" said Suzanne M. Bianchi, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, to USA Today. "A lot of work happened."
For example, Cathie Watson-Short, 37, a former business development executive at high-technology companies in Silicon Valley, admitted that it has been very hard for ..... ..... her to mesh work with caring for her family.
"Most of us thought we would work and have kids; at least that was what we were brought up thinking we would do — no problem," Ms. Watson-Short said. "But really we were kind of duped. None of us realized how hard it is."
Women have been a growing share of the once heavily male labor force for nearly a century, recording big bumps during momentous events such as the Depression and World War II.
This time, the boost has come from a severe recession that has been brutal on male-dominated professions such as construction and manufacturing.
Through June, men have lost 74 percent of the 6.4 million jobs erased since the recession began in December 2007. They have lost more than 3 million jobs in construction and manufacturing alone.
The only parts of the economy still growing — health care, education and government — have traditionally hired mostly women. That dominance has increased in part because federal stimulus funding directed money to education, health care and state and local governments.
The Postal Service is cutting tens of thousands of unionized, blue-collar jobs dominated by men, while new hires are expanding in teaching and other fields dominated by college-educated women.
The gender transformation is especially remarkable in local government's 14.6 million-person workforce. Cities, schools, water authorities and other local jurisdictions have cut 86,000 men from payrolls during the recession, while adding 167,000 women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Unemployment among men isn't going to last forever," says University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan. "People will move from construction and manufacturing to industries that are creating new jobs." Mulligan expects the portion of jobs held by women to peak slightly above 50 percent this year, then drop below half when the economy recovers and more men find work.
Equality in workforce numbers reflects a long-term cultural change, says Maureen Honey, author of "Creating Rosie the Riveter," a book about the government's campaign to persuade women to work outside the home during World War II. "The image that the man has to be the breadwinner has changed."
This might be true. But will it be accepted for generations to come? Who knows? Right now, though, I don't think we're not quite there.