“Why young men want old-school marriages,” read a headline in Vogue last month.
According to a recent sociological study, younger millennial men, particularly those born in the late 1980s and 1990s, are more likely to want a stay-at-home wife and believe that husbands should make, “all the important decisions in the family”.
In response, News Corp interviewed a few young men who attend a university in Melbourne.
Their insights included, “I need to marry someone who’ll look after the kids,” “None of us is looking at babies and getting all clucky and s**t. Why is everyone so scared of saying girls and guys are different? [sic]” and “girls are f*cking crazy.”
It painted a dire picture of millennial men in 2017.
The pendulum, it seems, has shifted direction.
As Chris Boeskool put it for The Huffington Post, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Could it be that millennial men feel robbed? That the ‘death’ of the traditional marriage has left men feeling worse off? That they yearn for a world more reminiscent of their grandfathers than their fathers?
In a bid to understand how young men see their future, I decided to ask them. I surveyed 40 men, from all over Australia, aged between 18 and 33. Most were unmarried and did not have children.
Here is what the millennial men who I spoke to want their futures to look like.
What age do you hope to get married, if at all?
An overwhelming majority of men surveyed saw themselves, unequivocally, being married in the future.
There was only one individual who said absolutely not, and another was grappling with the prospect that it might never happen for him.
“I’m more single now than ever before,” he said. “Maybe I’ll marry, but at the moment I’m just going by ‘whatever happens, happens.”
The average age that men saw themselves marrying was 28 and a half. The youngest was 24 and the oldest 34.
Do men care if their wives earn more than them? Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss. Post continues after audio.
How many children do you think you'll have?
The overwhelming majority of men surveyed said they imagine themselves having two children, with the biggest family consisting of four kids.
Only one participant, the same who didn't see himself marrying, foresaw a life without children.
What qualities matter most in a future wife?
The millennial men surveyed privileged 'honesty', 'trust', and a 'sense of humour', above all else.
Other qualities that came up multiple times included shared interests, good communication skills, intelligent/smart, understanding, shared values, friendship, family orientated and independent.
One participant said it was important to him to marry someone who held "different opinions to keep things interesting," and another said he was looking for someone who would be his "best friend".
Only one man specified 'beautiful'.
What kind of father do you think you will be?
The prospect of one day being a father seemed to excite an overwhelming majority of the respondents.
"I hope to be an involved father, fully engaged in what my children are doing and feeling. I hope to be relaxed, open and honest as well as someone they can turn to for advice," one man wrote.
A recurring theme was "understanding," with many specifying, "I want to really be there emotionally for my children." The words 'loving' and 'caring' punctuated almost all of the answers.
The other overwhelming response was "hands-on" and "present".
"A different one to mine," one respondent said. "I want to be present,"
The men valued being involved, and spending lots of time with their children, often referring to outdoor activities. A few men also specified 'calm' and 'relaxed'.
What is your greatest concern for marriage?
There were two significant concerns held by a majority of men surveyed.
The first was financial. One specified "the cost of the wedding," with other respondents concerned that they might never be able to afford a house and that will place a strain on their marriage. The cost of living seemed to be a point of anxiety for many men.
The second was "falling out of love". Many were worried that what was special about the relationship would change overtime, with some foreseeing that routine and repetition will make the "relationship go stale".
One wrote, "that my future wife and I stop sharing everything/talking about everything," with another echoing the same sentiment, "that we lost interest in each other, and stop making the effort."
A recurring theme was that of "boredom", a byproduct of both parties becoming lazy and comfortable.
Do you expect to be the breadwinner?
The overwhelming majority answered 'no', with only five of the 40 participants responding 'yes'.
Most imagined that they would both work, with many using the term "co-breadwinners".
Some had a pragmatic approach, specifying, "whatever works for us at the time," or, "I don't expect to be, but it wouldn't bother me if I was."
One man did say, "my fiance earns more than me which bothers me a bit..."
If you do have children, would you be happy with two full time working parents? Should one stay at home? And how do you determine that?
Contrary to the findings published in Vogue and News Corp, the men we surveyed did not at all imagine a future with a stay-at-home wife.
An overwhelming majority could not imagine a future where both parties didn't work full time, with most specifying that it's a financial necessity.
With that said, many acknowledged that kids mean there will be a period of time where at least one party will take time off work, or perhaps go part time.
If one stays at home, most agreed that's "determined by circumstance... who has the better paying job, whose career is in a more promising position, and who feels more passionately either way."
Three men said it was up to their partner whether they worked full time, or chose to take time off to look after the children. Two specified that they hope to stay home if possible.
Nine men who were currently either married or in long term relationships, wrote that they had discussed this arrangement with their partner. A number of solutions had been developed, from both working part time, to involved grandparents, to alternating.
What does failure for you look like?
Failure, for most men, was financial.
One respondent said, "failure for me would be not being able to own my own home by the time I'm 40," with others specifying, "not having enough money for essentials".
No one surveyed cited an aspiration to be rich, but rather to have enough money, "to live without having to worry."
Others understood failure through an emotional prism.
"Failure would be unhappiness and stagnation," one said, with three men highlighting the importance of learning from their mistakes and not giving up. Two also shared fears about loneliness and isolation.
What does success for you look like?
Interestingly, success to a number of men looked like, "providing for my family," which seemed somewhat at odds with their prior response regarding breadwinners. Even though they don't expect to be the primary bread winner, and see both parties working full time, they still see themselves as instrumental in providing for their wife and children. This was reiterated by seven men who specified that success is having happy kids and a happy wife.
When it comes to a relationship, what are the deal breakers?
A vast majority of respondents said the biggest deal breaker in a relationship is infidelity.
The theme of dishonesty or a "betrayal of trust" ran through almost every answer.
Interestingly, smoking was the second most common response, with a number of men saying they just find the habit unattractive.
The rest of the answers were largely varied, including clingy or controlling, no shared interests, jealous, abusive, cultural differences, and having starkly opposing values.
If you are the full time worker, what percentage of the housework do you think you should do? And what percentage of child-rearing do you think you should do?
Almost every respondent answered 50/50.
"As much as possible of both," one man said. "Housework and child rearing should be shared. Work to each others strengths and as a team. Pretty much 50/50 but sometimes it will be 70/30 or 30/70, because each day presents new challenges so it cannot boil down to numbers. As much as possible for both."
Another young man responded, "I don't think either [of these duties] should be based on sex."
Interestingly, one of the men who is in a long term relationship with children said that his partner, who is currently a stay at home mum, does about 90 per cent of the domestic duties, but when she returns to work he believes they will go back to halving the workload.
Perhaps philosophically, both men and women believe domestic work should be halved, but the reality isn't so egalitarian.
One participant felt uncomfortable putting a number on it, because it will inevitably change week-by-week, day-by-day. Another individual said they should do, "as much as they can," but he's not, "opposed to hiring other people as well," as a solution.
The men we surveyed do not at all see a future with a stay at home wife who is overwhelmingly responsible for the child-rearing and domestic duties.
Not only is such a future not financially viable, these men also saw that lifestyle as an enormous loss.
To the millennial men we spoke to, fatherhood matters. Success looks like being an involved, loved, emotionally supportive and compassionate member of the family unit.
Their ideal wife is independent. She's funny. She's driven. Most importantly, she's happy.
These men still see themselves as an integral financial "provider" within the family, and many interpret it as pressure. They want their families to be financially secure. But that is not all they want.
They want to find someone they love, who they can share a deep and enduring relationship with. They want a best friend.
Ultimately, they want an equal.
Of course, this was a sample size of 40 men. The type of man who chose to fill out this survey already skews our findings. We cannot draw enormous conclusions about what millennial men want, or what their futures might look like.
But what we can say is that it's not quite as simple as what Vogue and News Corp presented. What an individual desires out of marriage, career and children varies enormously. And it would be incorrect to assume that these are subjects only women think about. Men are riddled with just as many anxieties, expectations and desires.
Relationships are inevitably a constant process of negotiation, and no two are the same.
What this survey reminds us is that men have just as much to gain from the feminist movement (or whatever you want to call it) as women do.
Fatherhood. Deeper intellectual relationships with their wives. Liberation from bearing the (sole) burden of financial pressures.
When gender roles are challenged within marriage, we both win.