Responsibilities of the Family and Their Distribution
Separating work and family lives is difficult to do. Balancing time equally between the two can prove to be an even greater challenge. I’ve interviewed a couple in which both parties live together and work full time. For privacy purposes, I will refer to the woman as Alice and the man as Joe. Alice is 47 and works fifty to sixty hours a week, on top of fifteen hours, per week, of household chores such as cleaning and cooking. Joe is 50 and works approximately fifty hours a week on top of twenty hours, per week, of household chores such as laundry and dishes. They have a family, two boys, ages sixteen and twelve that also require countless hours of time and attention. Expectations of couples that work full time and come home to each other every night are rapidly changing. Both partners are, on a constant basis, expected to do their equal part in the work place and at home. In Hochschild’s “The Second Shift,” he begs the question of how much more work the fathers in a family have to do at home, due to the fact that more woman are “stepping into full time jobs, and can’t afford household help” (Hochschild, 3). This summarizes my question of how household work gets done while both parties work full time, how the responsibilities of each person get distributed, and whether or not that distribution is fair.
Although Alice and Joe are two completely different people, they agree strongly on their idea of family and what it means to them. When asked about the specifics about the hours Alice wanted when she took her job as a Communications Director at Sears Holdings, she indicated “I knew I wanted a job that I could work Monday through Friday, in order to spend time with my kids.” Joe made a similar statement. While work is important, most parents feel it is equally, if not more important to spend tome with their families.
From a work standpoint, Alice and Joe’s environments differ completely. While Alice works in an office and has personal interaction with those people that she works with, Joe works from home and his interaction with the people he works with is primarily over the phone. Because of this, Alice has relationships outside of the office, whereas Joe is more reserved and prefers to keep to himself when he’s not working. From a family standpoint, however, Alice and Joe could not agree more on the environment they want for their home. Hochschild questioned, “Just how much a husband should be responsible for.” (Hochschild, 2) “The housework,” Alice states, “is probably divided 50/50, Joe does the laundry, yard work, bills, dishes, and occasionally helps with the cleaning, and I take care of the cooking, cleaning, shopping and decorating the house.” However, when asked if they felt they had enough free time, Alice replied quickly, “NO,” while Joe responded confidently, “YES.” How can this be if both Alice and Joe work the same amount of hours and the housework is divided equally? The answer was simple for Alice. “When I come home, after I’ve finished with dinner and cleaning up after the boys and getting them to bed, I catch up on work I didn’t get done before I had to get home to make dinner.” Joe stated “When I’m done with my work day, I’m done with work for that day, besides those responsibilities that include chores.” The interesting part of this equation is that Alice and Joe make the same amount of money, but Alice has to work nights and weekends to accomplish the tasks that are expected of her while Joe can make his own hours and is flexible with his schedule. At the end of a day filled with work, household chores, and getting their kids to and from all the activities they participate in, Joe can relax with a good book while Alice works until midnight just to make ends meet.
There are similarities and differences, on an average day, between the responsibilities of Joe and Alice, but after everything, Alice comes out “constantly