Working Women Today, the term “family” is difficult to define. All families are unique, and they can range anywhere from single parent families to extended families. Most importantly though, it is in the family where the next generation is being built. Parents must provide security and support for their children, and they need to be prepared for the challenges of balancing work and family in today’s society. In traditional families, there was a mother, a father and their resulting children. The father would most often be the earner of the family, and the mother would stay at home and take care of the children.
Things have changed considerably in the twenty-first century. Now there are more dual-income families, single-parent families, and there are many more women in the labor force. This poses a great change to family life, and many women are working a “double day” with a combination of the paid and unpaid work that they do. They have their regular full time jobs where they earn an income, and then they have to come home to more work such as cooking, cleaning, child-care and grocery shopping. Like all systems and interactions, conflict arises between work and family issues.
This issue causes conflict for every member of the family, and we need to discover ways to resolve this conflict. Today, both men and women must go to work to support their families, but it is usually the woman who has to come home and do household work, while her husband plays with the kids or watches television in the living room. This is definitely a concern that needs to be addressed, as men often do not see this unequally division of housework or view their share as unnecessary (Rhode 55). Women continue to face obstacles at work and in the home, but the solutions to these problems can be found in creating more equal opportunities, not in confining women to domesticity” (Jacobs and Gerson 36). Women often feel stress and encounter difficulties trying to meet their responsibilities as family members and as employees. This affects their performance at work and at home. They are caught in the middle between having to work to support the family, and wanting to create a good environment for their family to grow in.
Society tells these women that they are bad parents if they don’t go to the school play and bad employees if they do go and take time off from work. “Few mothers feel they can live with the burden of guilt over splitting their time between their job and their children in the light of the continuing moral imperative to be a good (i. e, intensive) mother” (Lorber 40). Children are often raised by other people other than their own parents, such as nannies, teachers, other relatives or day care workers.
Many children must learn to grow up a lot quicker than they would normally have to if their parents were always around which could be good in some cases, but not so good in others. Every member of the family must have a role, and know that role. Partners must discuss who will do the dishes that night, and who will take the children to baseball practice. Children must also help out with household chores, and take some responsibility for themselves. If all members of the family can come to a specific agreement, and implement a good plan to satisfy everyone, work and family can be managed.
All that is needed are the right attitudes and resources. As Lorber states, “Rather than focusing on maternal employment as a social problem, we need to attend to the ways that workplaces and communities can better accommodate this fundamental transformation in family life” (37). There was not always an issue between family life and work. Typically, the only women who might work were young, single females with no other obligations. Married women would stay home with their children, do all the housework and make sure supper was on the table for their husbands when they came home from work.
The predicament between work and family arose when women began participating more in the labor force during and after World War I. Their involvement in the labor force has steadily increased since the beginning of the twentieth century. There are many different reasons for explaining why more and more women are joining the work force. It basically first started during World War II, because there was a great need for workers in factories, stores, etc. , and the men were off fighting in the war.
Therefore, the women had to join the labor force, and after the war, when they could leave their jobs, many women chose to stay instead of becoming a housewife once again. In the 1960’s, there was a women’s liberation movement, and this time period was the most significant change in women’s roles. Wives and mothers wanted to be free from the constraints placed on them in the home so many of them decided to go to work. Also, there has been an increase in the number of blended families, common-law relationships, and single-parent families which forces most members of these families to find paid work in order to financially support their family.
Most single mothers must go to work to provide for the family because they have no help from the father of their children. Altogether, many different circumstances have led to the increased problems between work and family life. In the dilemma between men and women’s roles in the family and in the work force, we must always consider women and gender when making assumptions about the family and work because they are inseparable issues.
Even with the intense changes that have taken place in the family structure and the workforce, there is still the general idea that a woman’s first and foremost responsibility is in the home, even when she is engaged in work outside of the home. Women workers experience more difficulty in balancing work and home because they tend to bear a disproportionate share of household tasks and family responsibilities. As Lorber states, “As long as work-family balance is the burden of individual families or mothers alone, there will continue to be gender inequality in the family and in the workplace” (40).
Basically, the work and family issue has been viewed only as a woman issue, which creates problems between husband-wife families. Work creates conflict within the family between the husband and the wife, in deciding who will perform what tasks within the family. As the families continue to grow and change, the companies need to implement a vast range of improvements in order to reduce the great demands of parenting and work. This will not only help the parents out with their family, but it will create a less stressful environment for all of the employees, and therefore, it will improve the company.
Many companies have already taken certain steps in doing this, but there is still much more that can be done, such as on-site day care, paid leave to attend to a sick child or family issue, and included day-care costs. We have reached a point in society when it is time to come to a compromise between work and family life, and flexibility needs to be offered whenever it is needed, to both men and women. In all, families have changed a great deal in the last century, and we need to keep up with these changes and offer new suggestions towards improving family life.
Work places a great demand on all families, but especially on women as they try to fill a dual role in their lives. It works in a viscous circle, because families need money to support their families, but at the same time they need a lot of extra time to spend with their families. The burden is placed more on women than it is on men, because taking care of the household is still seen as the “woman’s job”, even if she is engaged in paid work. Men need to start doing their equal share around the house to make it easier on the demands of the woman. Companies must implement new plans in order to meet the needs of their workers.
Altogether, it has been an ongoing battle for women who are trying to balance between work and family life, and as the family continues to grow and change so must the laws behind flexible work hours, day care, and permissible absence for family issues. “The great strides that women of the last generation have made have led many young people to think that feminism is passe. But the gender equality in the workplace and the home that liberal feminism achieved depends on good jobs, steady incomes, two-parent households, and family-friendly employers and colleagues” (Lorber 41).
Works Cited Jacobs, Jerry A. and Kathleen Gerson. “Integrating Family and Work in the 21st Century. ” Gender Inequality: Feminist Theories and Politics. Lorber, Judith. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. , 2010. Print. Lorber, Judith. Gender Inequality: Feminist Theories and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. , 2010. Print. Rhode, Deborah L. “Denials of Inequality. ” Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions. Eds. Shaw, Susan and Janet Lee, Eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.