Working Wives and Dual-Earner Families

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Women have less time available to do paid work because they still are expected to do more housework and perform most of the caregiving responsibilities, as reported in "Reinforcing Separate Spheres: The Effect of Spousal Overwork on Men's and Women's Employment in Dual-Earner Households" in the April edition of American Sociological Review , a peer-reviewed journal, published by the American Sociological Association. Cha's work looked at 8, professional workers and 17, nonprofessional workers from dual-earner families, using data collected by the U.

Census Bureau. Her analysis shows that overall, having a husband who works 60 hours or more per week increases a woman's odds of quitting by 42 percent. When asked to reflect on the contrasts between their experiences and those of their parents, most respondents felt that there had been a substantial change in the involvement of fathers in bringing up children. This was even the case in Southern European countries where gender roles were very traditional until recently and in Eastern Europe, where attitudes to gender roles are more conservative Inglehart and Norris.

Mothers do the bulk of child supervision and caring for the family, ensuring that children and fathers are fed, have clean clothes to wear and live in hygienic conditions. Fathers were generally said to "help" and more often undertook household maintenance and gardening, which they regarded this as a fair division of labour.

Even in households with shift parenting fathers" role was generally, limited to child supervision.

As a Danish father with two children aged 10 and 5 years told us:. I like collecting them on Fridays when Else is working late Then I get time with them. I just like to sit and relax with them with a cup of coffee. Danish father. As Dora, a Hungarian clerical worker, put it: My whole day is a rush. Shopping, cooking, washing, cleaning and going to the bed. When I get home I do not know where to start. Six of the fathers provided no help with domestic work at all and only one, Carlos, a self-employed Portuguese technical draftsman, said that he shared childcare and domestic work equally.

Husbands were relatively honest about not being very engaged in domestic work and argued that the main reason was that housecleaning, laundry, cooking and similar tasks were areas in which their partners wanted to remain "in control" and they themselves did not feel confident. Martin a UK train guard, for example argued:.

Father, UK. Marcin, a Polish financial controller married to an accountant argued quite cynically that:. I like to load the dishwasher. As Marlene, a Danish schoolteacher put it:. So I prefer to do it myself in the first place. In some countries, social policies have encouraged men to become more involved, although these need to be seen in terms of policy bundles that have different effects across time Sullivan et al. The authors conclude that without policies that require men to take paternity leave, they are unlikely to do so Brandth and Kvande.

However, it was generally only mothers in professional and managerial occupations who could take advantage of flexible working arrangements. Fathers were reluctant to take up paternity leave options or to take time off work because employers and fellow workers discouraged them. The pressure for both parents to work full time means that they have to find ways to manage work and care. The various gender and family regimes as well as the different policies for work and care in European regions might lead us to suppose that strategies would be very different depending upon the availability of extended family, extensive childcare provisions, length of maternal leave and so on.

In fact we found not as much difference between countries as we expected — families with young children were under pressure everywhere and came up with similar kinds of strategies. These reflected the predominant strategy in the household, although in practice, parents could draw upon a variety of sources to manage work and care. There were also important gender differences: although fathers were more involved in childrearing than their parents had been, mothers still did most of the day-to-day work. Our analysis based on accounts by parents of the actual work they do suggests that fathers taking on more responsibility for child supervision is one way of enabling dual working.

However, most strategies could be found in all countries, indicating that dual earner households are facing common problems in combining work and care, irrespective of the institutional environment.

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Debunking the Two-Earner Family Myth

Hence, the presence or absence of good quality child care or of grandparents might make certain strategies more likely, but in the end parents have to balance a range of resources, wherever they live. However, the Nordic extensive family policy pattern did make it easier for parents to manage work and care and helped to smooth out class differences. It also suggests that social class and country context might have some impact on how parents in dual earner families manage their lives.


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These insights would need to be tested systematically in other samples and other contexts in order to see if these are really emerging trends in a Europe where both mothers and fathers are expected to work full time. Although there is increasing acceptance of mothers working full time in the form of the liberalisation of attitudes Crompton, Brockmann and Lyonette; Inglehart and Norris the gender division of labour in the home has shifted only marginally in response, meaning that mothers now have not a double but a triple burden: employment, domestic labour and caring work.

Baldock, J.

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Brandth, B. Brannen, J. Crompton, R. Daly, M.

Dual Earner Parents Strategies for Reconciling Work and Care in Seven European countries

Duncan, S. Esping-Andersen, G. Fine-Davis, M. Forsberg, L.

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Gershuny, J. Work and Leisure in Post-Industrial Society. Oxford,Oxford University Press, Gstrein, M. Haas, B. Haddock, S. Hakim, C. Hank, K. Inglehart, R. Knijn, T. Kollo, J.


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Social quality in work, care and welfare across Europe, Letablier, M. Lewis, J. Lyonette, C.

Mahon, R. Malinen, K. Family relationships among Finnish and Dutch dual earners', Journal of Marriage and the Family , , Nazio, T. O'Reilly, J. Reconciling work and family life.

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